Title: Bridge Over Troubled Water

Author: LeeLee Robinson

Email: LeeLee@comcast.net

Status: Complete

Category: Humor, Drama, Action/Adventure

Pairings: Jack/Other

Spoilers: None

Season: 7 or later

Sequel to: I Am a Rock, I Am an Island (currently at Gateworld, Jackfic, fanfiction.com). This story can stand alone, but will be more fun in tandem with the prequel. The sequel to this story is "Hello Darkness My Old Friend".

Rating: PG-13

Content Warnings: None

Summary: Jack's prior efforts to help a new friend fell short. To finish the job, Jack subjects himself to things he considers hell on earth -- like the mall, a hair stylist and the commotion of New York City. It's mostly fun and games until a Goa'uld shows up in Central Park.

Disclaimers: All characters are the property of those MGM & Gekko guys et cetera. My original characters and the story are mine, and if those other guys want to use them, I'll let them for a writer's credit. (Still not bloody likely, I know.) Simon and Garfunkel's wonderfully apt lyrics are borrowed, and Monty Python takes credit for the obvious inspirations.

Author's note: Thanks to Julie Sade (gategrrl) for betaing!

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

Chapter 1 -- Ladies in Distress

"So, any word on how Chanah's doing?" Doc Frasier asked Colonel Jack O'Neill.

The petite doctor was administering a transdermal patch with Goa'uld killing toxin to Jack's neck. Virtually all SGC members who went off world had opted to use the patches which prevented the Goa'uld from taking them as hosts. Upon penetration of the area where the patch was applied, the toxin would be activated. The Goa'uld would flee the body immediately, never blending with the host, and die quickly. Jack had been saved by this patch once already. He intended never to leave home without one.

These patches and the toxin were obtained as a result of a mission SG-1 completed over a month ago. On that mission, Jack met a woman named Chanah who was killing Goa'uld and their larva, and curing the Jaffa's immune systems freeing them from slavery.

Chanah was disturbingly like Jack as he had been on Abydos on his first mission through the gate. A year earlier she'd lost her husband and unborn baby to the Goa'uld. Then her young son shunned her, blaming her for his father's death. Since that time, she'd been carrying on her missions as a sleepwalker, moving solely out of a sense of duty. SG-1's arrival had allowed her to pass on her mission directly to the Jaffa, and to begin what she called a new path. A path to death.

Jack saw himself in her, and for reasons he would be hard pressed to explain later, put himself at grave risk to save her. He tried to do for Chanah what Daniel Jackson had done for him: to help her feel something again other than grief and blame, to hold out some tiny hope for the future that would inspire her to keep living.

To get her to deal with her demons, Jack had to extend himself in a way he never had before – by revealing some of his own personal hells. After that it all got a little weird. There was that whole funky thing where under the guise of play and humor, they disclosed the horrors they had each suffered in their lives by comparing their abundant scars. That turned into foreplay and then, well, a very nice interlude in a cave in the middle of enemy territory.

Then things turned ugly. There was capture and torture at the hands of that "freaking pervert Babi" as Jack called him. Chanah suffered worse than Jack; the Goa'uld carved her up and even chomped on her entrails before reviving her in the sarcophagus. Yet in the end, it was Chanah who saved Jack by having secretly applied the toxin patch to his neck days earlier. Babi was about to rape Jack. As Chanah explained later, Jack just got lucky; the Goa'uld was a biter.

When they parted ways, Chanah and her son had begun to reconcile, thanks to Daniel Jackson's intervention. Jack was hopeful that she would be all right eventually, although he knew that coming back from that kind of torture was difficult. He even thought there was a real chance she and her son would take him up on his fishing offer. But he had heard nothing from them yet.

Doc's innocent question jarred him into thinking about the whole episode again. It had all been so weird, it was almost unreal now.

"Colonel, did you hear me? Any word on how Chanah's doing?"

Jack snapped out of his contemplation.

"Uh, yeah Doc. No idea." His answer was truthful, but hearing the question stirred up pangs of emotions – guilt, disappointment, lust, regret – that he'd just as soon avoid.

"Didn't you invite her son to go fishing?"

"Haven't gotten an RSVP yet."

"I understand that Sam is going back to visit the Tinkerer again tomorrow. Maybe you could renew the offer."

"Huh? Yeah, I guess."

"I think it would be a good idea, Colonel."

"Okay, what's up doc?"

"So much for subtlety," Janet Frasier shrugged. "Sam's been there a few times in the last two weeks. She hasn't seen Chanah once. I think she got the impression from the Tinkerer that Chanah's not doing too well."

"Can we be a little more specific?"

"Sounds like Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to me, Colonel. It would hardly be unexpected."

"Ya think?" Jack's sarcasm was defensive. He'd been lying low hoping to hear from Chanah, all the while aware that things might not be going so smoothly for her without a support system like his friends and teammates at the SGC to help. The love of an eleven year old child might be motivation to stay alive, but a child couldn't help with the depression and nightmares that followed torture as she had experienced.

"Don't bite me. I'm just the messenger."

"For Carter? Why?"

"Sam's got a little problem of her own to deal with right now, Colonel."

"What are you today, the official bearer of bad tidings?"

"General Hammond asked me to talk to you about Sam. She's the only SGC field officer to refuse the toxin patch. The General hasn't made it mandatory yet because, frankly, there was no need. Just about everybody lined up to get one. Most of the women took an additional patch in a second location. The General is considering ordering Sam to take the patch or removing her from field duty."

"Goddamn Tok'ra."

"Colonel, Jacob's her father. She doesn't want to put him at risk inadvertently."

"Jacob would be the first one to tell her to do it."

"Probably, but I don't think she's discussed it with him."

"Any other doom and gloom to report, Doc?" Jack asked getting up to leave.

"That's all for now, sir. I'll keep you posted." Doc gave him an impish smile. She didn't envy him the burdens of command.

Chapter 2 -- A Man, A Plan

Jack retreated to his office where mounds of paperwork stared at him.

SG-1 was on stand down. On their last mission without Jack, a piece of fluff, Daniel and Sam both somehow managed to get injured. Daniel's sprained leg was almost healed, but he was still taking physical therapy and only cleared for light duty. SG-1's duty was rarely light. So Daniel was spending time in his office studying pictures of rocks. Artifacts. Whatever.

Sam's arm sprain had healed and she was fine. She'd been busy coordinating the search to recover energy crystals on P8S-909 with Chanah's father-in-law, the Tinkerer, and acting as a technical liaison with him on other matters.

For the SGC, the Tinkerer had been the real find of the mission to locate Chanah. A nephew of Machello, the Tinkerer was a formidable scientist himself. He had developed a Goa'uld killing toxin harmless to humans and a cure for the Jaffa immune system. He also created a powerful energy weapon that Chanah carried, one that just looked like a big stick, using energy crystals. If they could locate more crystals, they hoped to use them for planet-wide defense applications as well as personal energy weapons.

Sam and the Tinkerer had developed a quick rapport. There was probably no one else at the SGC who could understand the Tinkerer as well as she. So her time was committed there for the immediate future. Jack suspected in that time Sam would probably even convince the Tinkerer to create an antitoxin to protect the Tok'ra.

Teal'c was taking a sabbatical to work with Bra'tac. Together they were attempting to ally the Jaffa that Chanah had cured and freed, gathering intelligence on the Goa'uld, and putting in motion a plan to continue Chanah's distribution of the immune system cure.

So Jack had time. Time he could use to think. Time he could use to reflect. Time that he didn't use for either. Time to catch up on the Simpsons, to watch hockey, to come up with more reasons not to get a dog yet. Time to do paperwork. But now Janet gave him a good excuse to stop the paperwork. In fact, she gave him two.

The Sam issue was easy for Jack. Talk to Jacob Carter, her father. Jack was confident that Jacob, even though he shared his body with the Tok'ra Selmak, would help force Sam's hand. It wasn't as if the SGC had decided yet to use the toxin as an offensive weapon, for chrissake. Protecting off world teams from being taken as hosts was purely defensive. And as far as Jack was concerned, for the sake of the security of them all and Earth, it should be mandatory. If Sam was unwilling, then maybe she shouldn't be out on the front lines. Jack wouldn't like the result, but that much loyalty to the Tok'ra was insane in Jack's eyes.

The Chanah issue weighed more heavily on Jack's mind. Jack had already gone way out on a limb for her. Told her crap he never even told Daniel. Course he never engaged in scar foreplay with Daniel either. He knew he'd kind of abandoned her at the end; that she was returning to a situation that probably wouldn't offer her the kind of support she needed. Or even if it did, she'd be too goddamned stubborn to take it. Much like Jack.

The difference was that Jack's teammates and friends at the SGC couldn't be shunted away that easily. They would accept that his emotions were off limits, and would distract him back to health. He knew of no one who'd do that for Chanah. He hoped he was wrong.

Jack brushed aside a pile of papers and opened a drawer to pull out a clean tablet. Right underneath it was his "Wanted Alive" sketch of Chanah – whom he'd nicknamed Caine before he met her – the one with no face, just a couple of randomly drawn scars. He pulled it out and studied it, feeling disturbed, like he'd left a job half done. He absentmindedly drew in a sad face and put her scars in the right places while thinking about what to write on his tablet.

"A plan, O'Neill, a plan."

He started a list. He wrote down "Assets." Excel at distraction. Relentless – Chanah had called him that a lot. Competitive – both of them rose to a challenge. Banter – she fell right into his word play and sardonic humor. Know how to have a good time in a cave – probably not useful, but keep in mind suitable alternative locations. He quickly scratched that out. Earth – a Goa'uldless planet full of things that can't be found elsewhere. Liabilities: Suck at talking about feelings – both of us. Okay, thought Jack, we'll avoid that.

Working with the list of assets, he formulated his approach. Next he made some phone calls. As long as General Hammond would cooperate, Jack was a man with a plan. He was even feeling rather pleased with himself.

* * *

At 0:900 the next day, Sam arrived in the gate room ready to depart for P3X-819 to consult with the Tinkerer. She was surprised to see Jack there holding a long, thin rectangular case.

"Morning, Colonel. I didn't expect to see you here."

"Maybe that's my sole motivation for coming Carter."

"What, Sir?"

"To annoy you, Carter."

"Oh. You'd have to do more than that, sir."

"Don't tempt me, Carter."

"No sir. Is there something I can do for you Colonel, take that package, a message or something?"

"You know Carter, you and Doc are as subtle as a ton of bricks."

"It's possible we miscalculated the density of the subject matter, sir," Carter said poker-faced.

"Are you calling your superior thick as a brick, Carter?" Jack gave an exaggerated stern look.

"No sir, I believe you managed to reach that conclusion yourself, sir." Carter stifled a giggle.

"Proving that I'm only as thick as aluminum siding, perhaps?"

"So sir, may I ask again what brings you here?" Carter could not hope to match the level of silliness to which Jack was capable of descending.

"I'm coming along. Thought I'd say hello to Micah. Check out the fishing there. Hear it's mighty pretty."

"Escape the paperwork?"

"That too."

"Would you like me to bring you up to date on the technology that we're working on with the Tinkerer?"

"Depends. Will you need apples to explain any of it? I didn't bring any."

"You could just say no, sir."

"No, sir."

"Then this really is a vacation, Colonel?"

"Elvis has left the building, Carter."

Carter and O'Neill stepped through the wormhole.

Chapter 3 – When You're Weary, Feeling Small

The Tinkerer was pleased to meet O'Neill at last but wasn't saying much about Chanah's state. After Jack learned where he could find Micah, he peeled off in pursuit of the boy.

Micah was in the middle of lessons with a group by a small lake. Jack waited patiently and wandered around staying out of the sight line of the group. Looking around he could see his offer of a quiet fishing retreat in Minnesota might have missed the mark. This place had everything his cabin did. Trees, lakes and a sense of serenity and quiet that Daniel claimed bordered on mystical. Jack mentally revised one line item on his plan under distraction. Fishing out. Stimulation in. That would be easy enough.

When Micah emerged from his lessons, Jack made a bee line for him. The look on Micah's face made Jack's efforts worthwhile already. The boy was excited to see him and to introduce him around.

"Hey Micah, I was wondering if you and your mom might be ready for the visit to Earth I promised you."

Micah's eager face told it all. Fishing on Earth sounded dandy to Micah. Pencil that back in, O'Neill told himself. But then Micah's face went all downtrodden. Jack could see that the boy was having trouble picking his words.

"I'd love to . . . but I'm not sure that mom will. . . . you'll have to ask her."

"Is she okay?"

"She wants me to think so."

"Do you?"

"No. She barely eats real food, just pops those things grandfather makes when I bug her. She doesn't sleep at night. She goes out in the woods. She thinks I don't know."

"You're worried about her."

"Yeah. I don't think she knows what to do now that she stopped, you know, her work."

"That's a hard thing for some people to do. I've retired twice."

"But you're not anymore?"

"It's hard to walk away from this work Micah, if you've got the energy and the will to do it."

"Do you think that's what mom really wants . . . to go back to work?"

"I don't know, Micah. What do you think?"

"Maybe."

"What do you think will happen to her if she doesn't go back?"

"I don't know. She's not like the people who were born here. She doesn't really fit in."

"How do you mean?"

"The people born here are real quiet. They meditate and study a lot. Dad used to joke that Mom had two speeds, fast and off. Except for studying the fighting stuff, she's just always been kind of off by herself.

Jack thought of himself trying to Kelnorim. "I can see that would be a problem for her."

"Since we came home from that place, I've been asking her a lot about where she grew up . . . before they took her. It was real different than here. Big cities with tons of people and all kinds of stuff to see and do, like music, plays, all kinds of sports. Mom said she wanted to be an actress when she grew up."

Jack could not help thinking that Chanah had, except her performances were played out on a real stage instead of a fake one. He almost shivered remembering how well she could fake the voice of a Goa'uld.

"So you think she's bored then?" Jack suggested.

"Yeah."

"How would you feel if she went back to work?"

"Afraid, I guess. But I don't want her to stay like she is now."

"Maybe you might consider telling her how you feel about it sometime. But for now, what do you say we see if we can distract her? Do you think together we can convince her to come with us to visit Earth and see the sights?"

"Maybe. If I tell her how much I want to do it, I think she might."

"Let's go work on her then."

* * *

Micah shushed Jack as they neared the house.

"Mom sometimes sleeps while I'm at lessons."

No kidding, thought Jack, as he quietly peered through the window. He was not as prepared to see Chanah as he thought and at the same time he was beating himself up for not checking on her sooner.

Jack was fighting an urge to flee. She looked more in need of Doc Frasier's help than his. Once again he found himself doubting that he was the right person for this job. Want to escape a building or fight your way out? Call Jack. Need to deal with emotions, call Dr. Daniel "Feelgood" Jackson. Jack reminded himself that this was not an option right now. So he barged in where fools dare to tread.

"Good afternoon, princess. Catching up on our beauty sleep, I see."

Chanah startled awake but was lethargic. "O'Neill?" she asked as if not sure he was really there.

"Tis I, fair lady. Come to escort you and Micah on a magical mystery tour through the stars."

"Can we go mom, please? I really want to go."

"Slow down, Micah. Let me have a few minutes with Colonel O'Neill, please."

"Sure mom, but pleeeeeeeease think about it." Jack winked approvingly at Micah for his performance.

"You don't look so hot," Jack frowned at Chanah.

"I just don't come back from the dead as well as I used to O'Neill." Chanah surprised herself with her snappy answer. Something about O'Neill consistently managed to draw that kind of reaction from her.

"I brought something to help. Lot's of it." O'Neill pulled a mound of chocolate from his pack and pushed a piece in her mouth, ignoring her protest.

"Doctor's orders," Jack claimed.

"What doctor?"

"Dr. Achingtookess," Jack pulled from an old Vaudeville routine, as he slapped his rear.

"Who?"

"Any more information is classified."

Chanah rolled her eyes, but her mouth clearly enjoyed the chocolate.

"You packing or you want me too?"

"Why are you here, O'Neill?"

"Objection. Answer is not responsive to the question."

"O'Neill, you are insane."

"Still crazy after all these years, yup."

"Or trying to drive me insane?"

"Long drive on a short pier. Or is it a short drive on a long pier. I always get that one confused. Anyway, we're going for a ride. Who's packing?"

He stopped to stuff another piece of chocolate in her. She had the pallor and energy of a zombie.

"You're not going to go away if I ask you, are you?"

"Been there, done that, have the coffee mug and the snow globe."

"Relentlessness? That's what you think I need."

Jack mentally scored off that entry on the asset list with a checkmark.

"That and mmmm . . . . chocolate. Go pack."

"Yes sir," Chanah flipped him a salute so sloppy he could bust her down a rank if she had one. With no great enthusiasm, she got up and wandered into another room.

Jack was patting himself on the back already. This one really will be a piece of cake, O'Neill, thought. And maybe even some fun too. There were still signs of feistiness left in her.

* * *

Micah was packed and ready by the time Jack had finished coercing Chanah. Jack sent him off to tell the Tinkerer their plans. They met up at the edge of the settlement close to the gate. Micah's smile was a mile wide. Jack could see that Chanah took pleasure in seeing it.

"Some ground rules before we go through the wormhole. When we arrive at the SGC, we'll have to stay on base at least two days. Doc Frasier will have to run some tests to make sure you aren't carrying any bugs that we have no resistance to on Earth. She'll probably want to give you some shots too. But they'll be plenty to see and do on base for that time. Then the real fun will begin."

"Jack, why is it called a wormhole?" Micah wanted to know.

"Um, better ask your mother that."

"O'Neill!"

"Something to do with space being an apple and the gate making a hole like a worm in it. Very technical stuff. Lots of doohickeys involved."

"He hasn't a clue, Micah."

"You neither, mom."

Jack punched in the coordinates, sent the GDO signal and warned Micah about that nasty little whoosh that comes your way before the hole engages. Off they went.

Chapter 4 – When Evening Falls So Hard, I Will Comfort You

A puzzled looking General Hammond met Jack, Chanah and Micah at the gate.

"Colonel O'Neill, I thought you were leaving for a few days. Explain yourself and your guests."

"General, this is Chanah and her son Micah. I sent you a memo."

"Pleased to meet you at last Ma'am. I've heard a lot about you. Nice to meet you too, son. Would you excuse us a second?"

"Colonel, what memo?"

"The one I e-mailed."

"I didn't get it."

"I sent it."

"You mean you wrote it and then actually hit the send key this time?"

Jack had that 'please don't confuse me with the technology' look. "Um, think so, maybe."

"Jack, what exactly are you doing?"

"Well, I promised them I'd take them fishing when we left P3R-whatever. Fish weren't biting at their place."

"Jack, they'll have to be examined and quarantined first."

"S'okay. I told them. Doc's expecting them."

"If she got your e-mail? If there was an e-mail?"

"General, I'm wounded by your lack of faith in me."

"Add that one to the list. You're taking complete responsibility for them, correct."

"Yessir."

"And they can't go off this base unless I get approval from someone higher up."

"Took care of that already sir."

"Not by e-mail, I hope."

"Nope. Your speed dial, number 2."

"The President? You might have asked me first."

"You weren't here."

"Colonel, if I still had hair, it would be turning gray right now."

"You'd look good in gray, sir."

"Get out of here, Jack. I'll come see your visitors later."

"Thank you sir. Have a nice day."

Quarantine was exactly what Jack wanted for Chanah. Give Doc Frasier a chance to examine her, to talk to her as Jack could not.

But Chanah wasn't any more cooperative with Doc than Jack ever was. All Doc managed to do was to give Chanah a mega dose of B-12 to hopefully jumpstart her appetite and some inoculations.

Doc was quite certain it was Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and privately conferred with Jack.

"Colonel, not that I've heard the first thing from her, but from what you and Micah say she has the classic symptoms of PTSS. Depression, malaise, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite."

"So what do we do?"

"Well, you know the textbook answers. Psychotherapy, possibly anti-depressants. But my assessment is she's about as likely as you to cooperate with those recommendations."

"That's a good bet. What else?"

"Guess I'd look at you Jack. How you've come back, from Ba'al, the rest of it."

"Like I know?"

"You know."

"With a little help from my friends."

"That and she's going to need something to do with her future."

"Don't see her doing the PTA and bake sales?"

"Colonel, no more than you. If I read her right, and assuming you can get her through this, she's going to need to go back out there just like you. I suspect that walking away like she did may have been the trigger event for her condition, more so than the torture she experienced."

"Don't know about that. It was nasty stuff."

"Colonel, imagine where you'd be now, how you'd be filling your time, and what you'd be thinking about if, right after what Ba'al did to you, you had retired."

"Gotcha," grimaced Jack after a thoughtful pause. "We'll go ahead with Operation: Distraction as planned."

"One more thing, Colonel. Since she's going to be confined to base for the next two nights, I think someone needs to stay close to her. Being shut up in a strange place could make night panics worse; there's a serious threat of self-inflicted injury. I don't think she'd be too comfortable in the infirmary, but we can do that if you want."

"No. S'all right. This one's on me."

Doc Frasier hadn't told Jack a thing he didn't expect to hear. He knew his greatest challenge would be getting her through two nights of quarantine. After that he was confident he could drive her to distraction in the outside world. Distraction was what worked for him initially. It was the start forward he would give to her.

After Doc released Chanah and examined Micah, Jack gave them the nickel tour. The B-12 shot Doc gave Chanah worked some quick magic. Some color returned to her face and her energy and interest increased.

The gym caught Chanah's eyes more than anything else. Machines she'd never seen before and didn't comprehend. The extra large body bag with the snake painted at neck height tempted her. Jack threw a few punches for show and promised her a turn at the bag later, if she was a good girl and ate her supper. She threw him a look of scorn.

The commissary wowed Micah. The People of the Oneness had an extraordinarily healthful diet, but not a terribly diverse one. Pizza, cake, pudding, spaghetti – Micah had a veritable smorgasbord which he washed down with Ben & Jerry's. Chanah moved her food from one side of the plate to the other, picking unenthusiastically. Until she tasted ice cream. Then Jack knew he'd found a weakness. He filed the fact for later use.

Carter's lab, even without Carter, intrigued Micah. It seems he had some of his grandfather's interest in science. Chanah was indifferent.

The three of them dropped in on Daniel. He and Micah seemed like old friends already, and Micah was full of questions for Daniel about the Earth, its people, its geology, flora, and fauna. Jack led a much less interested Chanah off barely noticed by Daniel or Micah.

"What'll it be princess? The game room or the gym? I'll whup you in either."

"Why does every man I meet lately want to whup me? Is there a target on me?"

"There does seem to be a pattern there."

"I'm not opposed to breaking it."

"Maybe you're just chicken?"

"The food?"

"No. It also means a coward."

"Okay, O'Neill. I'm a chicken. Let me just turn in. I'm tired."

"Not so fast. How about a movie and a treat? All you have to do is sit."

Jack knew damn well that Chanah wouldn't try to sleep so early. With PTTS, she'd probably avoid it as long as possible until she collapsed, to put the nightmares off as long as possible.

"Do I really have a choice, O'Neill?"

"Am I that transparent?"

"And relentless."

Jack mentally ticked off another checkmark on his asset list.

After settling Chanah in the VIP suite, Jack built up the movie for her.

"An all time classic. Deep, dramatic, and finely acted."

Both sat on cushions on the floor as Jack popped in a movie that was none of those things. He watched her as the credits rolled and shifted, to see if and when she would get it. Teal'c never did.

"A movie about dentists? This is a joke, O'Neill?"

"Deadly serious stuff. Shhhh."

By the time the coconuts were clapping fake hoof beats, Chanah was in on the joke. And to Jack's relief, she got it. She got Monty Python. By the time the Black Knight received his first "flesh wound," she was doubled over. By the end of the scene, she was in tears.

Jack rewound and played the scene for her again. It wasn't so unlike the torture he knew she'd undergone at Babi's hands. Her ability to laugh at that scene gave Jack great hope. How many times had he reached deep for humor like that when everything else was going to crap? It worked for him. He believed it could help her.

After they finished, Jack called for a delivery of pints of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and Cherry Garcia. Then they fast forwarded to the funniest parts again. By the second arrival of the final credits of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Chanah's head was drooping. Still she was fighting it. Jack told her to get ready for bed. He'd be back in a few minutes to tuck her in.

"Don't be ridiculous, O'Neill. I'm a big girl. Go."

"You call me relentless. All you ever do is tell me to leave."

Chanah threw her hands out in defeat and rolled her eyes to the ceiling. She wasn't going to win this one. There was no witty riposte. By the time Jack returned to the VIP suite to take a position on cushions on the floor, she had conked.

Three hours later, she started to thrash. The nightmares had started. Jack remained still. She needed to manage these on her own as much as possible, he knew. He'd step in only if she failed.

She settled down for almost another hour. That was it. Jack listened to her as she tried to breathe her way past the nightmares back to sleep. Then she got up to pace, quietly at first, then like a caged animal.

"Time for some walkies?" Jack popped up, fully awake.

"Excuse me?"

"Want to blow this Popsicle stand? Fly the coop? Make a break for it?"

"I thought Dr. Jackson was the linguist."

"He is. I'm the clicheist. Idioms are us."

She just looked puzzled. "How about some fresh air, O'Neill?"

"Now, see, I missed that one. Follow me. Hope you feel up to a little climbing."

Jack probably could have snuck her right past the guards without Hammond ever finding out, but he did have a plan. A very long climb up that ladder would physically challenge and tire her. The idea was to help build up her strength and give her the better sleep that comes with physical exertion.

It was a long climb. At the top, they were both tired and lie back on the grass to look at the stars. Jack showed her some of the constellations and listened as she made up a few of her own. She drew near him for warmth. Jack twitched a bit. It was the first time they'd touched in a month. It felt nice but awkward too. Chanah conked out again.

"Narcolepsy? Or just my company?" he whispered to her. Two hours later he nudged her awake.

"Good morning sleeping beauty. Time to get inside before we're missed."

"O'Neill, thanks. For bringing me up here."

Going down the ladder went much faster. After separating to change, they met up with Daniel and Micah in the commissary for breakfast. Chanah nearly spat out a taste of Fruit Loops. O'Neill mentally noted a small black mark on his register for that, but then discounted it as just a breakfast cereal. He was impressed with her appetite when she kicked back probably a half a dozen eggs scrambled with cheese.

"You know those come from chickens?"

"What is it with you and chickens, O'Neill?"

"But they don't taste like chicken."

Chanah gave it up.

"All right, campers. Today we pick our destination for tomorrow and the next few days. Let's go to Daniel's office and play spin the globe."

"Actually, Jack. I thought maybe we'd cruise the Internet."

Chanah and Micah looked at each other blankly. It was all Greek to them.

The mountains, the Grand Canyon, and the desert were dinged. The oceans, Atlantic or Pacific, earned serious glances. But New York City took Micah's breath away. It also seemed to transport Chanah to somewhere else.

The skyscrapers, the congestion. It was as far as you could get from Chanah's adopted world. But much like where she had been born. Jack had a hunch this would be how it played out, although he'd rather have stuck to the boonies.

"They call it the City That Never Sleeps," Daniel told Micah.

Micah whispered back to Daniel, "Mom will love that since she doesn't sleep either."

Jack took Daniel aside to discuss some planning details. Daniel was to pump Micah for information about Chanah that might help identify things she might like to do or see. But in the meantime, Jack didn't want Chanah to be sitting and thinking. He wanted her moving, getting physically stronger. They'd rendezvous with Daniel and Micah at lunch.

Jack took her to the gym. After doing a quick training circuit on the machines, Chanah seemed bored. She kept glancing over to two young officers sparring.

"Want to take on one?"

"Might be nice. It's been a few weeks. Don't suppose you've got any staffs around here?"

"Think we can dig some up, not one as cool as yours though. Bo sticks."

"Don't suppose you'd like a go?"

"Think I'd rather watch."

"Chicken?"

"You learn fast. I heard some stories about a big Jaffa who wasn't."

"Which one?"

"See now, that's not encouraging. How about Gregson on the right? He's maybe twenty-seven, works out constantly, thinks he hot shit."

"Is he?"

"Might be."

"Okay."

Jack arranged it, although Gregson looked at O'Neill as though he was nuts.

"You want me to go easy on her, Colonel?"

"Gregson, you know the one about the book and its cover?"

"Yeah, sure sir," Gregson said disbelievingly.

Gregson and Chanah bowed to each other. Gregson laid back, allowing the lady the first move. Mistake one. He fell for a feint to his right shoulder that was followed quickly by a spinning duck and reversal of the staff behind the left side of his knees, where she gave him the gentlest of taps. Chanah returned to starting position and waited for him to be the aggressor. Chanah defended his every parry readily, as if it was all a rehearsed dance. But she did not take any offensive advantage. Gregson was mismatched. Chanah did not wish to embarrass him in front of his superior. After several minutes, she called a halt, bowed and thanked him. Gregson knew what she had done, and a little cowed, bowed and thanked her.

"Colonel O'Neill, perhaps you would like to spar?" Chanah dared him.

"Mmm, no thanks. I prefer multi-round automatic weapons to big sticks." He meant it too.

"Hand to hand, then?" Chanah baited him.

Jack couldn't say what he was thinking. He'd be happy to go hand to hand with her, but combat wasn't what he had in his mind. He was, however, hard pressed to refuse in front of the young pups in the gym.

"S'okay. Just take it easy on me. I'm an old man," he pointed to his gray locks.

Chanah bowed to him. Jack curtsied. He'd been martial arts trained and used the training often. But never once did bowing come into the real thing. He thought it silly. Chanah shook her head at him.

They circled, measuring each other up, for thirty or so seconds. Jack could not bring himself to be the aggressor. Finally, Chanah relented and after a few feinted punches, spun a kick to his chest. He just barely caught her foot and flipped her back. She came up ready. Jack made the next move, a combination sequence of kicks and punches. Chanah parried him measure for measure and the dance continued.

When Jack touched her, his body felt charged. But not about punching and kicking. Jack realized that he needed this to end fast, before he embarrassed himself. Chanah snuck in with a series of punches, turns and kicks that required him to roll to safety. While down on the mat, Jack took her down with a scissoring maneuver favoring his long legs, although he was fairly sure she'd let him do it.

Now he was holding her around the neck. They both were breathing shallowly, feeling the same things.

"Say uncle," Jack asked trying to maintain his command demeanor. All the while he was smelling her hair and wanted to be doing something very different someplace else.

Chanah too was enjoying the near hug, but also realized the time and place was inappropriate. "I yield, O'Neill."

Jack let her go, though a part of him didn't want to. She rose, extending her hand to assist him up, and bowed.

"You are a skilled fighter, O'Neill," she said loudly enough for all to hear. She did mean it. Seeing Jack was uncomfortable fighting her, she had taken an early dive. And out of respect, she would never have bested him in front of his troops. That said, there was also some question in her mind as to who the victor would have been in an all out fight. She had speed, training and youth on her side. He had size, strength and experience on his.

"Loser buys lunch." Jack wanted to get the hell out of that gym fast and take a very cold shower. He had a security officer take her back to her quarters to shower while he hit the locker room. He was not pleased to see Gregson there.

"Nice moves, Colonel."

"I'm not dead yet, Gregson."

"Exactly who is that little filly? Her face is little scratched up, but I'm guessing she's a firecracker."

"She's someone who could have kicked your ass to the moon, Gregson."

"Looks like it would be one helluva fun ride though, Colonel."

Jack didn't like that kind of talk generally, and especially not about her. Even if it was true.

"She's a lady and a guest of this facility, Gregson. We'll conduct ourselves accordingly."

"Yes sir, sorry sir."

"Beat it, Gregson."

"Yes sir." And he did.

Jack was relieved to have Daniel and Micah join them for lunch. The SGC was not a place where O'Neill was going to let his personal desires interfere with his command. He needed to keep his hands off her in the Mountain.

Chanah's appetite seemed to respond to her body's increasing exertions as Jack and Doc had hoped and planned. The lady could eat and did. A protein loader.

"I thought Teal'c could pack it away. Geez."

"Ssssss," hissed Chanah at him.

Micah was starting to watch their interaction and wonder. Jack noticed and flicked his eyes from Chanah to Micah to alert her.

"Sorry Micah. Colonel O'Neill seems to have a talent for . . . getting under my skin."

Nice double entendre, thought Jack, as he shot her a gaze which questioned whether it had been intentional.

"Actually, Micah, you'll find that Jack's talent in doing that is fairly universal," Daniel backhanded.

"Everybody's a critic!" harrumphed Jack.

The four of them spent the rest of the afternoon studying the possibilities for their jaunt to the Big Apple. Micah, urged on by Jack and Daniel, pressed Chanah to recall the cities of her childhood. It was all part of the conspiracy to find the right distractions. Tour guides, maps and last week's Sunday New York Times were strewn across the room being absorbed in detail by the two visitors. The hours passed so quickly they brought dinner in from the commissary.

"Chanah, you don't have to memorize the maps. It's not recon."

"You never know, O'Neill."

Okay, Jack thought. What the hell did that mean? Am I going to need to handcuff her at night? Oh, yeah, like that'd work. He remembered her talent for escaping shackles. He'd just have to stick by her like glue.

When they were done, Micah wanted to stay with Daniel. Daniel had brought in some Discovery Channel videos. He and Micah tossed out Jack and Chanah when neither could sit still quietly for the show. Still both were reluctant to go. That whole weird intimacy thing was creeping back into the deal. Neither knew what to do with it.

Chapter 5 – When Darkness Comes and Pain Is All Around

"I'll be all right on my own tonight, O'Neill," Chanah said after they exited Daniel's office.

"Are you sure?" He didn't believe her but he did not want to spend the night wanting to touch her and not being able to.

"Doc can give you something to help you sleep," Jack offered.

"No thanks."

"Tell you what. I have a few things to do, but I'll come visit a bit later. When you're ready to hit the hay, I'll skeedaddle."

"Translation, O'Neill?"

"When you shut your eyes, I'm outta there. But first, I've got another Monty Python tape. And another tasty treat."

Poor Jack. None of his teammates would ever watch Monty Python with him. If only they had, someone might have appreciated his "Hathor is dead, she's an ex-goddess" speech. Alas those poor kids knew not from dead parrots.

When Jack rejoined Chanah two hours later, he had a great deal set in motion for the next few days. He found her cruising the tube.

"O'Neill, your world. Perhaps it is not suitable for Micah to travel. I've been watching 'Action News.'"

"The body bag hour? They just take the worst stuff in the world and cram it in an hour. They tend to skip the nice stuff."

"I hope so."

"I promise. It may not be a bed of roses out there, but there are plenty of good things."

"And something else, on this TVLand, I saw an advertisement for a show. Do you have a younger, mmm, cuter brother?"

"Geez, not that MacGyver guy again. No. And by the way, I hear he's gay."

Well he had heard it, on the Simpsons, one of his favorites. No alien would ever get the Simpsons, not for a long time, he thought ruefully.

"Wee bit touchy aren't we, O'Neil."

"Hey, you'd be amazed what I can do with a paperclip."

"Like."

"Clip papers together. Unfold it and poke you in the arm."

"Impressive."

"Told you."

She did have a way of playing right into his juvenile humor that he so liked. He popped in "And Now for Something Completely Different" and opened a bag of microwaved popcorn.

He was pleased that she laughed at most of it. He'd seen it a zillion times, knew it all by heart. It wasn't easy to make out all of Monty Python's patter the first time though. When it was done, and the mood was light, Chanah was showing no signs of sleepiness. Crap, thought Jack, this is too cozy and I need to get the hell out of here soon. Luckily he found a hockey game on ESPN. On a small screen no one could ever learn to like hockey. She was nodding before the period ended. It was a dull one.

Jack poked her awake with an unfolded paperclip.

"Warned you. To beddy bye, princess." He resisted the urge to take her arm and help her there. He needed to get out of there or his military dignity was going to be lost.

"Call for me," he said pointing to the phone, "if you need walkies."

"Yeah, right," Chanah mumbled as fully clothed she fell into the bed and buried her head under the pillow.

Four hours later, the security officer outside her room called and woke Jack in his quarters.

"Sir, I heard a scream. Now it sounds, well, I think the furniture is flying. Things are crashing."

Jack went to the video control room and relieved the security officer on duty. The feed for the VIP suite had been turned off for her privacy earlier. Jack wanted to assess the situation first before intruding.

She had torn up the room quite nicely. The TV/VCR, a lamp and the phone were casualties. A chair had been mortally wounded. Everything else looked salvageable. Except Chanah. She was huddled, arms around knees, and wedged in the space between the bed and the wall in the fullness of a night panic.

Jack sat and watched for a few minutes unsure what to do. Seeing no change, he shut off the camera. He thought about calling Doc Frasier at home but resisted. He was unnerved. He'd been in her place. He didn't particularly want to go back. But he had made this commitment.

From a safe distance near the door, Jack spoke to her in a calm, reassuring voice. He reminded her who she was, who he was, where she was and that she was safe. At first she was totally unresponsive. He kept repeating it, getting a little louder, until at last she seemed to notice something outside herself.

"O'Neill?" she said softly and pained, her body beginning to rock in a calming motion. She didn't like being found in this state. Jack could see that horrified her as much as anything else. He understood. She looked up at him glazed.

"I'll be all right now, please go."

For once, Jack did as she asked. She wouldn't be going back to sleep and he didn't need to compound the loss of dignity he knew she was feeling.

He came back to get her for breakfast. She didn't want to go, but Jack used Micah as bait. She would keep up the pretense of things being all right for her son and he knew it.

At breakfast, Micah and Daniel were talking a mile a minute. Jack was quiet. Chanah was withdrawn. She moved scrambled eggs from one side of the plate to another without eating more than a forkful or two. Jack was about to make a chicken joke, then thought better of it. This day was not off to a good start.

Daniel jumped in to try and generate some enthusiasm.

"Chanah, Micah, we have a small emergency to take care of this morning." That caught everyone's attention.

Daniel explained, "A fashion emergency. Your clothes. As wild as New York is, you might want to blend in better. We need to hit the mall."

"The what?" Micah and Chanah asked in unison.

"Place with lots of stores. Don't worry. Teenagers practically live there."

"Not me, Daniel." Jack did not do malls.

"Small problem there Jack. We only have a couple of hours and there's only one of me."

"Where's Carter?"

"Day off."

"Call her anyway."

"Jack, this isn't exactly official business. You want to call her, you do it."

Jack had neither the nerve to do it, nor did he believe that Carter would actually bail him out.

Chapter 6 – On a Road to Nowhere

An hour later, Jack found himself seated like a dorky, clueless husband by the dressing room in Colorado Spring's finest department store while something called a "personal shopper" selected outfits for Chanah befitting their upcoming jaunt to New York.

"How the hell did I get into this mess, Ollie?" Jack muttered aloud.

A few minutes later, he felt worse. The personal shopper came out of the dressing room with an armful of rejects and handed them to the salesgirl.

"Nothing strapless, sleeveless or with too much shoulder showing, Susie. It's strange. Fit as she is, underneath she looks like a refugee from a battered women's shelter. I've never seen so many scars. The ones on the face are just the tip of the iceberg." She cast a suspicious eye at Jack, who'd heard every word as the woman intended.

Jack's was on a hair-trigger. He tried to keep himself calm and hoped that Chanah hadn't heard it. So what if it was true. It was hurtful and catty. Chanah didn't need or deserve that kind of treatment, especially now.

"Ladies," Jack went up to them holding his finger over his lips indicating to them to keep it quiet. "I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill, U.S. Air Force. That lady in there is a soldier. She got those wounds defending her country. You'll give her the respect she deserves."

"Oh, sorry Colonel. I didn't mean to imply anything."

"The hell you didn't," Jack whispered. He resisted the urge to make a further scene. He just wanted to get the hell out of there. Good thing they never asked what country, he thought.

If Chanah had heard, she didn't let on. She was lethargic and didn't seem to care about clothes shopping any more then Jack. He left his credit card and told them to wrap it all up for pick up after lunch.

They met up with Daniel and Micah, who was all smiles with a large bag from the Gap in tow. They headed out of the mall for lunch. It was not soon enough for Jack or Chanah. Micah, on the other hand, couldn't stop talking about it. At least his chatter covered up the awkward silence from the pissed Jack and the depressed Chanah.

They lunched at O'Malley's. Jack resorted to cutting up a steak and force feeding Chanah a few bites. To get him to stop, she once again called him relentless before agreeing to try to eat. She made small progress.

On the way to the airfield, Jack forced Daniel to pick up Chanah's clothes from the department store. Jack swore he would never grace those premises again.

Daniel came out looking puzzled.

"Jack, did something weird happen in there? The saleswoman was kind of falling all over herself apologizing. She said she put in a little something special to show their appreciation."

Jack took out the package with the note and read it silently. "On behalf of everyone here, we express our thanks and gratitude for your service to and sacrifice for our country." The package contained a bejeweled U.S. flag brooch and an assortment of make up. Jack hooted out loud.

All eyes turned toward him, looking clueless.

"What's so funny, Jack?" Daniel asked.

"Just a little misunderstanding, Daniel," he said stuffing the box at the bottom of the bag. "Some things are better left unexplained."

A well furbished small passenger Air Force jet was waiting for them at the field. Micah's eyes were popping at the sight of airplanes taking off and landing.

"Must have called in a few markers for this, Jack."

"Got to use 'em or lose 'em, Daniel. The wind could shift at any moment." Among them only Daniel understood that Jack's explanation went to politics, not weather. The current president's term was nearly over. There was substantial concern at the SGC over how a change in administration might affect the program. The involvement of Kinsey in the race had Jack willing to call in personal markers and evaluating his options for the future.

Jack could see that Chanah was beginning to relax some. Eating and seeing her son's delight were helping. The day was beginning to show more promise.

The flight was smooth and the scenery beautiful. It was everything one could dream of on a first flight. As they approached New York City, Jack could see that Chanah's spirits were rising just like the skyscrapers. This place was the right choice. He sat up close against her back, with his left arm over her shoulder pointing out the sights through the small window. He didn't even realize that his right hand was rubbing her shoulder as he spoke.

By the time they deplaned, Jack's sense of dread had lifted. He escorted Chanah by the arm to a waiting stretch limousine. They piled out at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park hotel. At the desk, Jack gave his name.

"O'Neill, two el's in that."

They were all impressed with the response, even Jack.

"Colonel O'Neill, welcome to you and your guests. We've been expecting you. You have adjoining suites on the 21st floor waiting. If there's anything you need or want, please do not hesitate to let your personal concierge know."

"Jack, exactly how high up did you go with those favors?" Daniel whispered into Jack's ear. Daniel figured this jaunt would cost Jack at least a month's salary. But the way they were being treated suggested someone other than Jack was pulling strings or paying.

Jack didn't answer. He just smiled his snarkiest smile.

Chapter 7 - Killing Me Softly with his Song

Two luxurious adjacent two-bedroom suites with generous living areas awaited them. Fresh flowers were set out in abundance. A gift basket stocked with champagne, snacks and several envelopes was in the center of a large table.

"Jack, do you know who this basket is from?" Daniel's eyes bugged out as he read the card.

"Anything you need or want, with thanks from a grateful nation. POTUS. Jack, isn't that you know who?"

"Daniel, did you think I got Maybourne sprung from the pen by writing Dear Abby?" Sometimes Daniel's naiveté amazed Jack.

As they settled in, their personal concierge fawned over them practically begging for something to do to please them. Jack sent him out for a six pack of obscure Belgian ale just to get rid of him.

After everyone changed, there would be dinner in Chinatown, a stroll and a performance by the New York Philharmonic. All cleaned up and nattily dressed for the evening, they piled into the limo that apparently was to remain at their disposal for the trip. As they rode, Micah marveled at the people on the streets – their diversity amazed him. Conversely, Chinatown was full of faces like those on his world, yet the environment was so different. As was the food.

They ordered dim sum and tried a zillion things. Only Daniel knew what half of them really were. Nobody seemed to mind. They finished with ice cream and fortune cookies. Micah's promised a long and happy life. Chanah was pleased. Hers was one of those "Confucius says life begin at 30, Confucius die at 29" ones. Very funny but only because she'd made it past 30. Daniel's was more on the mark: "You tend to think too much." Jack guffawed. Jack read his last: "Help, I'm being held prisoner in a fortune cookie factory." Everyone laughed, although no one was sure if he made it up or not. He ate the fortune to keep Daniel from seeing it.

Before they left Chinatown for the Philharmonic, Chanah ducked into a martial arts supply store taking Daniel along for his wallet. She had a present in mind for Jack. She emerged in a few minutes holding a small wrapped parcel, the contents of which she refused to disclose to Jack. Meanwhile Daniel snuck a wrapped parcel about five feet tall by three inches wide out to the limo driver to hide in the trunk. Jack did not like the smirks they wore, but they would not play along with his guessing game. Nevertheless, Jack relentlessly played twenty questions for the entire ride uptown to Avery Fisher Hall.

The symphony was magical. They had picked a good night; Itzhak Perlman was playing. Jack was a not so secret fan of classical music. Micah had never heard anything like it, but was awed by all the different instruments and the size of the sound they made. Daniel preferred soft rock and roll, but found the program was very accessible: a Bach violin concerto, and Mozart and Dvorak symphonies. Chanah seemed to have been transported off world – to a very happy place -- during the performance. At the end, an usher met them at their seats to escort them backstage to meet Mr. Perlman.

He greeted them graciously. Jack offered brief sincere praise for the performance. Daniel took over the conversation, as he so often did, explaining that it was Micah's first visit to the symphony. Mr. Perlman knew where to take the conversation from there, and gave Micah a CD. He did not understand the look of puzzlement on the boy's face. Daniel jumped in to explain that Micah and his mother were visiting refugees, and the boy had never owned a CD. Daniel told him not to worry; they'd have a disc player by morning. Meanwhile Chanah struggled for words to thank Mr. Perlman that made sense; there were tears welling in her eyes.

"I want to thank you. I have not heard a symphony since I was a child. I forgot how music could make your soul soar. My mother, she often sang with the symphony. I don't think I realized until now how much I missed those sounds. . . or her singing."

Mr. Perlman didn't know what to do, so he hugged her. "You will come again."

"I hope. Thank you so much." Chanah gathered herself, looking somewhat embarrassed by her outpouring.

They said farewells and headed out. It was a good evening. And Jack had just learned a fact which gave him an idea for how to extend it. Back in the limo, he pressed Chanah for some more details about her mother the singer. Chanah offered little detail; it was not her way. Just that her mother was very versatile, and acted as well as sang.

"Don't suppose any of her talent rubbed off on you?" Jack inquired.

"Not a drop of the singing."

Jack looked like he didn't believe her. Micah looked at him and gave a head nod to let him know it was true.

"When Micah was about six, he made me promise never to sing out loud in front of his friends and made me stop singing to him at night too."

"That bad?"

"I didn't think so."

"I've always wondered about your hearing, Mom."

Chanah shot him a hairy eyeball.

"Well, Micah, prepare your ears because the next round of the evening might be hard on them."

Jack placed a quick hushed call to his "personal concierge" and then gave the limo driver an address.

As they pulled up, Daniel immediately started to complain.

"Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack," whined Daniel, "not karaoke, please. You couldn't carry a tune to save your life."

"D'oh, isn't that the point of it?" Jack challenged. Neither Micah nor Chanah were in on the joke yet. It was only minutes later until they were.

After an hour or so of listening, and with lubrication for the grown ups, they were ready for their turns. The emcee of the club was not going to let any one escape without a try.

Jack was pushed up first by the three of them.

"Try not to break any glasses, Jack," Daniel suggested.

"Your confidence in me is overwhelming, Danny boy."

"Oh yeah, and nothing Irish for god's sake." Fears of Jack singing "Danny boy" were more than he could bear.

Jack was a little annoyed with them all for pushing him up first. He'd had a couple beers, and went for a naughty turn. He couldn't resist. Lyrics from the song had been going through his head from the first time he'd met Chanah. He chose Simon and Garfunkel's I Am a Rock:

A winter's day

In a deep and dark December;

I am alone,

Gazing from my window to the streets below

On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

I've built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.

It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

Don't talk of love,

But I've heard the words before;

It's sleeping in my memory.

I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.

If I never loved I never would have cried.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

I have my books

And my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

Had Jack's voice not been so terribly off key and his face so expressively goofy it might have backfired. Luckily for him, Chanah was not the oversensitive type.

"A not so subtle message, O'Neill? Or a self-portrait, perhaps?" Chanah shot at him. Daniel swooshed a fake bucket in support of her observation.

Jack crossed his arms, and gave them each a huffy squint. He hadn't thought about how the tables could be turned on him with that song.

Daniel's turn was next. Jack slipped the emcee twenty bucks when Daniel wasn't looking and picked a song for him. Chanah saw what he was up to and wondered what he was going to do to torment Daniel.

Jack picked another Simon and Garfunkel song that many have butchered. But Daniel's voice was decent enough and Jack was so going to enjoy using Daniel as his shill. To his credit, Daniel was a good sport. He didn't really mind passing along Jack's nicer message to Chanah:

When you're weary

Feeling small

When tears are in your eyes

I will dry them all

I'm on your side

When times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

When you're down and out

When you're on the street

When evening falls so hard

I will comfort you

I'll take your part

When darkness comes

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Daniel started to sing the "Sail on silver girl" part, but the music abruptly ended. There was only so much of Bridge over Troubled Water permitted to be sung in karaoke. A little embarrassed at continuing past the music, Daniel came down.

The emcee tried to get the rest of their party up, but they would only go as a group. Jack took charge of the finale: the Talking Heads "We're on a Road to Nowhere". Bad voices didn't hurt that song at all, and Micah and Chanah's unfamiliarity with the song would make little difference. It was an inspired bit of silliness to end the evening.

They finished their drinks and headed back to turn in for the evening. Chanah seemed to be daydreaming all the way back, even dozing a little. The wine, Jack thought. He hoped that didn't come back to haunt later.

Chanah bid Micah good night. He was staying in the suite with Daniel, to spare him Chanah's night panics should they return. Jack was in for a dime, in for a dollar now.

Jack and Chanah returned to their two-bedroom suite. Jack walked her to her bedroom door, with an arm around her.

"You going to be okay by yourself? I'll be just next door if you need me."

Chanah looked up at his eyes. "No. Please stay, Jack."

He eyed her suspiciously. "First time you ever called me that."

"First time any body ever sang a song like that to me."

"The Rock song? You liked that?"

"Not that one, Jack. The Bridge one."

"Daniel sang that, not me."

"You made him do it. I got it. I appreciate what you're doing for me, for Micah."

"Yeah, well, I'm a very sentimental guy," Jack said rolling his eyes.

"For a rock."

"Takes one to know one," he quipped.

"Jack, shut up."

"Okay. Well, good night then."

"I said to shut up, not to leave."

"I'm just so used to hearing it."

"Stay. I want a recount."

"What?"

"You know. Scars."

"D'oh," said Jack as he let Chanah pull him into the bedroom.

There were no nightmares or night panics that night. Not much sleep either. In the morning though, no one was worse the wear for it.

Chapter 8 – The Lengths to which Poor Jack Will Go

The next morning all four breakfasted together in Chanah and Jack's suite. Daniel only had to look at Jack and Chanah to know what he had suspected all along. That this went a little deeper than helping a comrade in arms. Jack looked as if he swallowed a canary. Poor boy, Daniel thought, he doesn't get out much, does he?

Chanah was somehow brighter than Daniel had ever seen her. Alert, focused, interested. Daniel doubted that what she and Jack were doing was on Doc Frasier's list of recommended treatments for PTSS, but so what. Two of a kind sharing and helping each other through something like this might be as good a treatment as any. He couldn't begrudge either of them. He just didn't want Jack to do anything that might lead Chanah to crash. Not that he had any reason to think Jack was a cad.

In truth, Daniel realized he didn't know a damn thing about Jack's relationships with women outside the SGC, except some of his missteps with Sara after Charlie died. That was a long time ago. A lot had happened since. This just wasn't a part of the Jack O'Neill repertoire he knew. Jack went to the top for some big favors on this trip. Obviously this was important to him. Daniel wondered why. He further wondered if Jack even really knew why. Daniel also began to wonder who was rescuing whom.

Micah saw the change in Chanah and Jack too. He was beginning to see this stranger, who had been very generous and caring with him as having some undisclosed self interest. Maybe as a threat to himself. To his late father. He wasn't sure what to make of it. He was having an awfully fun time and didn't want it to end. He shrugged it off for the moment. He wanted to see his mother well after all. Jack seemed to be delivering on his end of the bargain, whatever his motivations were. Micah thought maybe he might talk to Daniel about it later.

The day's agenda was set. It was Saturday. The morning would be spent at the Museum of Natural History. Afterwards they'd have lunch in the Park. Then Jack and Chanah were off to a surprise, one that Daniel and Jack assured Micah that no eleven year boy would mind missing. Daniel and Micah would explore and hang out in Central Park. They'd meet up for dinner later.

The Museum of Natural History in New York City is an astounding place. Dr. Daniel Jackson could take three years to show you just how astounding. But only one member of his audience had the patience for museums, Micah. Jack and Chanah ducked out fast, arranging to rendezvous with them later for lunch in the park.

Jack and Chanah browsed through some fancy stores around Central Park. Jack and Chanah got jostled by the crowds, and neither much cared for it. At one point, Jack had to stop Chanah from taking a swing at a lady who plowed right into her trying to squeeze past. No excuse me, no pardon me, no I'm sorry. Jack explained that if New Yorkers did that, they would have no time left in the day to do anything else. All that bumping and touching by strangers was driving him nuts too, but he was putting up a front for Chanah. Well, he did growl at a few people when he got really annoyed.

Both resolved to do more window shopping than indoor shopping to minimize the jostling. Chanah peered quizzically into a beauty salon. In the window, people were getting fake nails applied.

"What the hell is that?"

"Fake fingernails."

"Why?"

"Too much time on their hands?"

"O'Neill, seriously."

"How would I know? But, you know, a good haircut wouldn't hurt you."

"Me? Do you have two that are the same length?"

"It's a fashion statement."

"You cut yours, I'll cut mine."

Oh great. She dared him. Like he could refuse.

"Okay, but under no circumstances do they touch the color. I earned every one of these gray hairs and intend to wear them proudly."

"Same here, although I don't have quite so many yet."

Jack, anxious to get it over with, went first. He got up thinking he looked pretty much like he sat down, except with expensive "hair product" sending some spikes in unusual new directions.

Chanah went next. As the stylist pulled back her bangs to decide on a cut, he saw the three inch horizontal scar on her forehead. He dropped them back down quickly.

"Think we better stick with the bangs, dearie."

Chanah said nothing. It was who she was. What she had lived. It really didn't bother her. They were badges of survival -- literally. The two inch slice along her right cheekbone given to her by a friend had spared her from becoming a host or personal slave to a Goa'uld in her youth.

As the stylist worked on the back of her head, he noticed the scars on her neck.

"Honey, are you into some serious S&M or what?"

Chanah looked blank. She hadn't a clue what he was talking about. But Jack bristled at the comment, and interrupted before Chanah could ask the stylist what he meant.

"The lady wrestles tigers for a living. If I were you, I'd lay off the catty comments."

"Oh, circus performers. How droll. Well you look better than that guy in Vegas does now anyway. God did he have some bad plastic surgery even before that."

Chanah just let it ride. If this guy was having amusement at her expense, she didn't get it and she didn't really care. In the end, she got a nice cut and made fun of Jack's rearranged bunch of cowlicks.

"O'Neill . . ."

"Back to O'Neill again already?"

"Jack. Which do you prefer?"

"Doesn't matter."

"The why did you interrupt me?"

"Was there something you wanted to tell me?"

"O'Neill, are you trying to drive me to distraction?"

"Yeah, that's kind of the whole point."

"Enough," she swatted him. "I just want you to know that I don't give a crap what people say about my scars. It doesn't bother me. It's a part of who I am. I don't need you to protect me, not about that."

"Okay."

"Do they bother you?"

"Me?"

"Yeah."

"No, why? You've seen mine."

"Your culture, it seems to promote perfect bodies. Plastic surgery, fake this and that, make up. Does it make you feel like less of a person not to have an unblemished body?"

"No."

"Am I less of a person because of mine?"

"Not to me. I just didn't want anybody hurting your feelings."

"O'Neill, the song you, ahem, sang the other night. I may not be a rock, but I'm a little tougher than to let the opinions of strangers bother me."

"So you want I should lay off the macho stuff?"

"Try, for me."

"I can do that."

"Thank you," she said planting a kiss on his cheek.

* * *

Daniel called Jack's cell as they entered Central Park. They were being ditched. Seemed Micah liked dinosaurs and mummies. Daniel was friends with one of the curators working that day. The special behind the scenes tour was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Micah. They'd catch up for dinner.

After Jack broke the news to Chanah, he received one of those looks women throw.

"Yessssssss?"

"How am I ever going to get my son back home if Dr. Jackson keeps this up?"

"Let's cross that bridge when we get to it."

"O'Neill, what are you up to?"

"Nothing, that bridge in the park, let's cross it." Jack tried to quickly divert her from the topic of conversation.

"And the answer to my question?"

"I'll think about it."

"What about those things with wheels? Can we try to get some of those?"

"Inline skates. As if my knees weren't bad enough already, and the back. . ."

"O'Neill, based on last night, I strongly disbelieve there's anything wrong with your back."

"Tell that to anyone else and I'll have to kill you."

"If we can try the skates, I'll keep quiet."

"Already a damn master in the art of blackmail," he grumped.

Ten minutes later they were on skates. They weren't doing too badly considering. Except that every time one of them bumped the other, they would both go down. The one falling purposefully made sure of that. After twenty minutes of more laughing than skating, they decided to stop.

"I'd rather save my body for a softer surface, if you don't mind," Jack pleaded.

"Fair enough, O'Neill."

"If we grab some dogs for lunch, we might even have time before the opera."

"Dogs? The animals people are walking and playing with in the park."

"God no, hot dogs. They're made of, well no one's sure, it's a kind of mystery meat. Not from dogs though."

"If you're sure. I don't like the idea of eating something I might pet."

"Guess I'm safe, then."

"Don't be too sure, O'Neill."

After wolfing down hot dogs, they rushed back to the Ritz for quick showers and a change. After doing something else quick first.

* * *

They were off to the Metropolitan Opera today. An usher escorted them to a V.I.P. box. Chanah was impressed at the continuing special treatment, and was beginning to wonder about Jack.

"O'Neill, the SGC, it must pay very well."

"Oh, well, not too bad at my rank. But this is a special treat," he whispered, "courtesy of the boss man for saving the planet a few times."

"You did this for me?"

"Hey, I'm an opera buff."

Chanah looked at him warmly, but suspiciously.

The opera du jour fortunately was not a tragic one but one of the brightest comedies, Le Nozze de Figaro by Mozart. Chanah was transfixed. Jack enjoyed it tremendously too, though he spent a good deal of time watching her enjoy the show.

The only funny thing was that both Jack and Chanah looked slightly pained during the soprano's solos. They whispered to each other during the first of these.

"God, my head feels like it's under a ribbon device," Chanah squinted.

"I was thinking Tok'ra memory device, but you may be right. Bastards may have ruined live opera for me. This could be their cruelest crime yet."

Chanah looked at him, shaking her head a little with a quiet chuckle.

After the show was over, they rejoined Daniel and Micah, both looking adorable dressed in dinner jackets. They took a leisurely stroll up Fifth Avenue, and then crossed over to Park Avenue to arrive at their destination. Dinner was Jack's surprise and a pun: Restaurant Daniel.

"Wow, Jack," Daniel stuttered, "I thought you had to book here months in advance."

"Only the plebeians, Daniel."

Chanah and Micah were overwhelmed by the place settings alone. But Jack was not going to let this evening be stifled by the formal atmosphere and their lack of knowledge. After explaining to the maitre d' that Chanah and Micah were visitors unfamiliar with this kind of cuisine, the staff fawned helpfully over them.

Meanwhile, Jack took every opportunity of the staff's distraction with Chanah and Micah to switch around the order of his silverware. To their credit, the staff gamely and quietly fixed it each time. After the fourth time, everyone was in on it and no one seemed to mind much. A lot of wonderful food, "much of it discovered by pigs" as Jack explained truffles, was consumed along with some excellent wine.

They headed into Central Park to walk off the meal. Something was disturbing Micah, though.

"Jack, where are the stars?"

"Ah, now you know why city living's not the life for me."

"But where are they?"

"Light pollution, Micah."

"What Jack's saying Micah, is that there is so much artificial light from the city – street lights, buildings, cars, that it's rare to see many stars in New York. A little while ago they had a blackout for a couple of days, and there were people in the city who saw stars for the first time in their lives," Daniel explained.

"That's sad. I don't think I'd want to give up seeing the stars."

"That's one of the reasons that people who live in the city who have enough money often have weekend homes in the countryside," Daniel said.

"Could you live in a place like this, Mom?" Micah asked tentatively.

"I already did once, Micah. Maybe. There's an awful lot to see and do. But I guess at this point in my life, the crowds, the lack of personal space, would be difficult. As a kid, I would have jumped at the chance."

As this innocent conversation went on, they heard shouts about fifty yards south of them and saw three young men running in their general direction.

"Stop thieves! They took my purse!"

Jack and Chanah glanced at each other, pointed and moved. Jack tackled one of the thugs into a second, dropping them both. Chanah clotheslined the third.

"Daniel, I could use a little help over here," Jack asked, trying to keep two squirming bodies pinned. But before Daniel got there, Chanah had sent her guy to sleep with a rap to his head and helped Jack.

"You go girl!" Jack said gratefully.

"Police, everybody freeze!"

"Yeah, now you show up." Jack was underwhelmed.

Then he had a moment of discomfort when the cops asked for everyone's i.d. Chanah did not exactly have any. Luckily, the victim explained everything and the cops were satisfied with just Jack's i.d.

"Nice work, Colonel," complimented the officer.

"Piece of cake, son," Jack couldn't resist. "The lady helped too, you know."

"You too, Ma'am."

"Okay if we vamoose now?"

"Sure, I guess so."

"Hey, hold up a second," the victim stopped them; "I want to thank you both. It would have been a pain in the ass to replace everything in my wallet. Let me give you something for your trouble."

She stuffed two hundred dollars into Chanah's hands.

"Buy something sexier for yourself, honey. You could pull it off." Then she stopped and stared at Chanah more closely.

"You know sweetie, I'm a plastic surgeon. We could do something about that scar on your cheek, probably the one by the eye too. Here's my card. Call me. I'll cut you a deal."

Chanah was silent. Jack couldn't help but believe that sooner or later comments like this were going to bother her. It bothered him. Jack put his arm around her shoulder.

"O'Neill, is everyone on this planet that shallow? I've seen people with every part of their faces pierced, navels pierced, breasts pierced, tattoos all over, bizarre hair colors, clothes full of holes, clothes falling off, people who haven't bathed in weeks or months. That woman's eyebrows didn't even move and her lips looked stuffed. But my scars seem to be at the top of everyone's list of the bizarre."

"Ninety-four percent."

"Ninety-four percent what?"

"Of the people look and judge first, and then think later."

"Should have let the jerks take her purse."

"Then you wouldn't be you. Beauty is as beauty does."

"She could have at least offered you a deal too!"

"Ah, that would be the double standard. On a man, a well placed scar is a distinction."

"How can one city be so wonderful and so stupid at the same time?"

"Oh, sweet mystery of life!" was all that Jack could say in response.

"Hey guys, if you don't mind, Micah and I are going to head back to the hotel and turn in," Daniel volunteered.

Jack peered at Chanah to see how reacted to the suggestion. He could tell it was a no go for her. Too early. His guess was that she'd rather spend the rest of the evening chasing muggers. She seemed almost juiced, as if the little bit of wrestling with muggers had been an hor d'oeuvre and she wanted more. Jack conceded that although it was plenty late for an early riser like himself to call it a night, even he felt a little wired. Plus the plastic surgeon's comments were a bad note on which to end the evening.

"I thought I was the old man, Daniel. You go on. I think we'll wander around a while longer, if Chanah wants."

"I want," Chanah quickly replied.

"Yeah, I can see you guys are birds of a feather. Maybe you should go to the Bowery and pick a fight."

"Hey, why didn't I think of that?" Jack shot back putting his palms to his forehead.

"You probably would Jack. Geez. Why not try a normal activity for once, like dancing?"

"I could go for that," Chanah accepted quickly. Jack shot the evil eye at Daniel.

"Uh, it was kind of a joke Chanah. Jack's dancing isn't much better than his singing," Daniel warned her.

"I thought his singing was quite . . . entertaining. I would be willing to risk seeing him dance."

Jack had that sinking feeling. "If you insist. But I have to tell you that I once was ticketed for reckless dancing."

"I'll take my chances."

Jack wondered if Chanah and Daniel had planned this torture. He whispered into Daniel's ear.

"This is so going to cost you Daniel." He hadn't figured out what yet. He'd wait to see how badly it turned out first.

After a quick call to his new best friend, his "personal concierge" – who Jack was thinking of taking back to the SGC with him – he had an idea of a place where he wouldn't embarrass himself too much. Some place that played loud rock and roll from his generation would be best. There really were no rules for dancing to it.

After arrival at the bar, Jack kicked back a Heineken desperately fast. Chanah was talked into the latest rage, a Litchi martini. After a few sips, she was getting silly and pulled Jack onto the dance floor.

She may never have heard the tunes before, but she was all energy. Jack just kind of stood near her, shuffled around a little, and prayed she'd run out of steam soon. He was out of luck. She seemed to be gaining momentum, not losing it. Jack, on the other hand, was tanking fast.

He pulled her off the floor. "Tomorrow's another day, Lightfoot. Come on."

"I'm not ready. I like it here."

"A half an hour more, tops. We've got a busy schedule tomorrow. But no more martinis."

Jack ordered another beer. A martini appeared in front of Chanah without being ordered. Jack eyed the bartender maliciously.

"Hey, it's not from me. It's from that guy," he said pointing to a well dressed, good looking guy whose hair did not go in as many directions as Jack's.

"Well take it back to him," Jack demanded.

"Jack, that would be rude," Chanah took a sip and nodded her head thanks in the guy's direction. Jack felt Chanah was playing with him, and Jack didn't like it one bit. The guy approached her.

"Hi there. You're quite a dancer. Would you care to join me for the next one?"

"Sure, if that's okay, Jack?"

"Hey, you're a free agent."

He pushed her right into that one, he thought seconds later. And of course, it had to be the first slow dance they'd heard. The guy's hands were all over her. Jack felt the first pangs of jealously he'd felt in years and he was not comfortable with it at all.

Chanah kept dancing with the guy. Jack kept nursing beers. The half hour was up. Jack cut in.

"Excuse me, but the lady turns into a pumpkin now."

"That's up to the lady, not you friend." Chanah's new dance partner apparently was not ready to let the evening end.

"Jack, I'm fine. I can find my way back to the hotel. You go ahead if you're bored."

"That's not an option."

"Just one more, then." She hauled off into the midst of the crowd with her new dance partner and smiled at Jack defiantly.

Jack went back to finish his beer. It was another goddamned slow dance, and this time Jack would swear the guy was trying to have sex with her fully clothed on the dance floor. He thought he saw the guy's tongue go in her ear. Jack had enough. He turned to throw some money at the bartender before going to haul her off the dance floor like a caveman if necessary.

When he turned back, the guy's hand was being bent backwards by Chanah and he was yelping at her to let go. Jack quickly made his way over. Her eyes were steely.

"Chanah, let him go."

She did, almost hissing at him.

"What happened?"

"He was attempting to take liberties. He made inappropriate suggestions."

"What took you so long to figure that out?"

"I thought this was a place for dancing. For exercise and fun."

"You have a lot to learn about bars," Jack sighed and kissed her on the top of her head and hugged her. He felt relieved that she had been clueless instead of toying with him.

They headed back to the hotel, a little too sated with the city at the moment. Hopefully staying one more day wouldn't prove too much. Meanwhile, Jack would be her bridge through the darkness of the night again. It would prove as pleasant a night as the prior one, with a few liberties mutually taken.

Chapter 9 – A Time for Remembering

Sunday was to be their last full day in the city which was fine with Jack. He was ready for the mountain air again. The plans for the morning had Jack a little nervous, but Daniel's ideas about things like this were usually well founded.

Daniel had previously figured out that Chanah's birth world had been home to one of the lost tribes of Israel, abducted by the Goa'uld. After breakfast, they all headed off for the Sunday tour of Temple Emanu-el near Central Park. Daniel wanted to give Chanah a chance to reconnect with her past, and Micah an opportunity to meet it.

The Romanesque synagogue was built in the 1920's. On the outside, Chanah recognized the symbols of twelve tribes of Israel, but her own tribe's symbol was missing. Daniel explained that legend had it that as many as ten tribes were lost.

Inside, they all admired the soaring chapel with outstanding stained glass work. To Jack it was not much different than any impressive church he'd seen. And he wasn't much impressed by organized religion. It was hard for him to do this. He suspected that Chanah was probably of the same view, but didn't really know. In any event, this was more about confronting memories than beliefs, Daniel had warned him.

Chanah went along pleasantly without looking terribly engaged until they stopped at the Memorial Wall. Daniel stayed right by her anticipating its effect. Her eyes were clouding up.

"I suppose I should say a prayer for them, my parents and my people. I don't remember it. I was a little girl; we weren't supposed to recite Kaddish. I don't know if I can."

"I can help you," Daniel had a small prayer book in his hands at the ready, "I can do it with you."

"I can read the words, Daniel. But I don't believe in them. How can one say a prayer to a god who let billions of people be exterminated by the Goa'uld? What could the meaning of a prayer not believed be?"

"I don't know the answer to that. We do a lot that is ritual without thinking about what it really means, if it means anything. But sometimes the ritual has a value of its own. Sometimes we do it for the sake of others. We might say a prayer because it's what our parents would have wanted us or expected us to do for them."

"They would have wanted it. All of them." Tears began to stream down her face.

Jack was getting mad at Daniel glaring at him with a "what the hell are you doing" look. He regretted promising not to interfere. Some lecture Daniel gave him about how Chanah had never had an opportunity to grieve for her lost family and world in a way familiar to her.

"Daniel, will you help me say it?" Chanah requested softly.

Jack listened to Chanah and Daniel chant the Hebrew words for the dead. He'd heard them before. He'd been to more than his fair share of funerals. But Daniel just asked her to say a prayer for an entire planet. The weight of that request looked like it was crushing her. Why the hell do that to her?

Chanah was sobbing as she started reciting the words. As she finished, though, her voice gathered strength and her composure returned. And then Jack thought maybe he got it. That Daniel was helping her discharge a duty and burden of which she probably had no conscious awareness. Maybe it didn't matter if she believed. Some things you just do.

When they were done, they left and headed for the Central Park Zoo. It seemed a fitting change of venue, somehow. And Jack had a little Daniel baiting to do, after what he just put Chanah through. Jack was anxious to point out how many goofy looking animals bore resemblance to Daniel. But the cell phone interrupted them.

"Jaaack, guys, do you mind if I beg off? My friend Eric at the Museum of Natural History said they're bringing in a box of some kind with Egyptian hieroglyphics just recovered from underwater off the coast of Florida. It's a great opportunity."

Jack told Chanah and Micah. Both shrugged that it was okay with them. Jack pondered it, and decided it would be a good idea for him to have some Daniel-less time with Micah anyway.

"Okay Daniel."

"Great. Eric, I'll be there in about twenty minutes I guess." Daniel spoke excitedly into his cell phone, looking as happy as a dog who busted open a bag of puppy chow. "See you guys later."

"Daniel, he didn't say anything about this box that should make us worry, did he?"

"Noooo, Jack. Geez, it's not like every mummy case is a Goa'uld sarcophagus, Jack. The vast majority hold just plain old dead mummies that won't be coming back to life."

"Just humor me and be careful, Daniel."

Jack had just lost the butt of all his zoo jokes and was not taking to it kindly. Well, the jokes wouldn't be as funny without Daniel there to suffer them, but he could still make them.

Chapter 10 – Out of Touch

Jack, Chanah and Micah enjoyed the zoo. The animals put on fine shows for them, and they, especially Jack, did the same for the animals. After a quick deli lunch, they were off to see a Broadway revival of West Side Story. Jack warned them that, yeah it was a little sad, but there was nothing that compared to it for dancing, story and music.

When they exited a few hours later, Micah was trying to sing the Jet song. Chanah joked about how badly she and Jack could mangle those songs with their voices. Jack demonstrated how true it was and Chanah joined in for the words she could remember. Micah stuck his fingers in his ears and refused to go anywhere with them until they stopped singing.

"There's no accounting for taste, is there?" Jack feigned a menacing look at Micah, before patting him on the back and urging him forward.

"Guess I better turn the cell phone back on," Jack started.

"For crying out loud, ten missed calls. All from Daniel, shit!"

Jack speed dialed Daniel.

"Jack, thank God. Uh, what's the worst thing you could think of right now?"

"Godzilla and Mothra stomping through Central Park?"

"Well, it's not that bad yet. Jaaaack, we have a little problem here."

"Those are not words I want to hear right now, Daniel," Jack shook his head and took a deep breath. "Tell me the rest of what I don't want to know."

"The box, Jack. It was being uncrated in the loading dock before being moved to the lab for study. It never made it to the lab. We found it open . . . and empty."

"The box is a . . ."

"Yes, Jack, it's a sarcophagus, the Goa'uld kind."

"Crap, crap, crap."

"And there's a dead security guard."

"How?"

"Broken neck. Looks like it was caused by impact against a wall."

"A ribbon device?"

"Could be."

"Jack, I don't have a clue who was in it yet. I'm working on translating the markings."

"Do we have any clue where 'whoever' might have gone?"

"Oh, yeah. Guard from the front of the house said a big guy dressed up like Cleopatra got hit by a car crossing Central Park West, then got up and walked into the Park."

"How long ago?"

"A half hour, maybe forty minutes ago."

"Who else have you called?"

"General Hammond. He's sending two teams and Carter. They'll be awhile though. The N.I.D. was notified too. They're supposed to coordinate with the locals. They should get here soon."

"This just gets better and better. Hammond's sending some weapons, I hope?"

"Yeah, he might even send a zat or two. He wants them used only if there's no other way. He figures we can convince the locals we're just shooting a movie if we need. One of the advantages of being in New York. Weird shit happens here daily."

"Daniel, what do the police know?"

"No details about the security guard yet. Hammond was going to try and get Washington to put out some story about a lunatic jarhead gone AWOL. You're supposed to know the guy. A patrol car should be waiting at the corner of 53rd and Broadway to give you a ride."

"Oh, that's just a peachy cover. We'll run by the hotel for my gun first."

"Jack, what is it?" Chanah heard enough to know something was wrong, but not what.

"Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more."

"Not a Goa'uld in the box? Alive?"

Jack nodded, "Vacation's over folks."

Chapter 11 – An Afternoon in the Park with Goa'uld

A patrol car was waiting for them as promised. Even with lights and sirens, it seemed a painfully slow ride back to the Ritz.

After they got out of the patrol car and ran in the hotel, Jack gave the details to Chanah. Jack grabbed his gun while Chanah grabbed a couple things of her own.

"I'd bring the one I bought for you, but I don't think you've got time to learn how to use it now," she said holding up an intricately detailed five foot bo stick.

"There'd be no point in my asking you to stay out of this one?"

"No sense either." She unwrapped a smaller package, revealing a throwing knife and holster she'd picked up in Chinatown.

"Sweet," Jack remarked. It was a sharp, thin blade. "Although it's a little creepy, this thing with you and weapons."

"Would you prefer I arm myself with a banana?"

"If you were fighting me, yeah."

"Can we leave Micah with Daniel, if that's okay? I'd rather he not be here alone."

"Sure. That'll solve two problems."

"What do you mean?"

"It'll keep Daniel off the streets. If you saw how Daniel shoots, you wouldn't let him loose in New York with a weapon."

"Oh. Well he has a lot of other good qualities."

"Truer words were never said. Let's roll. Oh, and by the way, no one out there except Daniel and us has the slightest clue what a Goa'uld is. We need to keep it that way."

"You're serious?"

"As a heart attack. The cops think some nutcase killer in a dress is on the loose, that's all."

Jack and Chanah told Micah what was happening before they got into the waiting patrol car.

"Get him, Mom, Jack. But please be careful."

"Thanks Micah," Chanah was very proud of her son right then.

"We'll be back, Micah," Jack said earnestly.

* * *

Jack sat in the patrol car as it sped to the West side of the park and allowed himself a minute of thought. This was way close to nightmarish. A Goa'uld loose in New York City. How could you possibly find him? Who the hell would notice one more lunatic? Maybe we'll get lucky and the muggers will get him. And how the hell was the U.S. Air Force going to explain its interest in the whole mess?

Finally, Hammond called.

"Jack, this is not good. Washington's still spinning it. For now, it's an escaped marine with a serious mental problem wanted for murder. NYPD's on orders from Washington to cooperate with us. They're going to try and seal off the park. If the Goa'uld is even still there. Do you have a clue how we're possibly going to find it?"

"Wait for the usual . . . can't exactly say right now sir. I'm in the back of a patrol car."

"Wait for reports of glowing eyes, strange voice, orders to bow down to our god and threats to kill everyone?" Hammond offered.

"That would be my guess, sir."

"Jack, try and come up with something a little more proactive. It would be better if the general populace didn't hear or see too much of that."

"No pressure, right, sir?"

"Keep in touch. Our people are on the way."



* * *

"Okay, Jack, think." He started talking out loud without realizing it.

"Imagine you're an insane murderous marine who likes to wear Egyptian clothing – think you've been reincarnated as a pharaoh – where would you go?"

"I would probably go to the Museum of Natural History, not leave it," Micah volunteered.

"Good point. But say you're insane but not enough to stay there, where do you go?"

"There's an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a whole temple and mummies. There are ads for it all over the Park," offered the cop driving the car.

"We would be heading up the wrong side of the park now for that?" Chanah had memorized the Central Park map back at the SGC.

"Yup. Want me to turn around?"

"I wanted to see the Men in Skirts exhibit there anyway, Jack," Chanah whispered, "maybe he does too."

"How far are we?" Jack asked, rolling his eyes at Chanah.

"At this point, we'd probably do better to keep going up the west side, and then cut through the park," said the officer.

"All right, let's drop off Micah with Daniel at the Natural History Museum and do that. Let me call and see what Daniel thinks."

Daniel was thinking that none of this could be real. Would someone pinch him and wake him up?

"Jack, the sarcophagus doesn't tell me much useful information. It's got representations of Ra and Hathor on it, but we know it's not them. It could be one of their offspring."

"Any ideas on how to corral the guy, Daniel? I don't like our chances of finding him anytime soon without somehow publicizing the search. After all, what's one more freak on the streets of New York? If he gets excited by museum posters, he might go to the Metropolitan Museum. But the odds seem long to me."

"Jack, the Goa'uld has to be really confused. Imagine waking up a couple of thousand years after you went to bed in Egypt in the middle of Manhattan."

"Explain how that helps."

"Well, when Hathor came out of the sarcophagus, what did she do?"

"Asked about the others, Ra as I recall."

"Right. The Goa'uld will want to find out about its kind. We have to use that to lead it where we want it to go."

"And exactly how can we do that?"

"We could put up some signs."

"Come again."

"Posters, chalk drawings, whatever, wherever we can with hieroglyphs about Ra and Hathor. With arrows pointing the way we want."

"Daniel, that is the lamest. . ."

"Jack, it's a Goa'uld who's been sleeping for two or more millennia. They go for lame."

"Get started on it then. Focus on the covering the Park for now, towards the Metropolitan Museum in case the posters attract him. I want the museum ringed off with cops, though. He gets in there, and I'm out of here in a New York minute. I'm taking the next gate to anywhere. You sure you got enough geeks there to do signs quickly?"

"Jack, this is geek heaven."

"Okay. Meet us out in front in about five minutes. Micah's staying with you."

"Jack, wouldn't it be more helpful to have me out in the field?"

"With a bad leg still and armed with what, Daniel? Fruit?"

"Could you borrow a gun?"

"It's okay, Daniel. You can do more good coordinating there."

"But I can speak Goa'uld to it Jack."

"Shit, Daniel. Why didn't I think of it? Chanah can too. And she can do the creepy voice with it. He might think she's one of them, at least for long enough." Jack directed his conversation towards her as well as the phone now.

"Do you need anything special to do that voice? Or do you just do it?"

"I just do it. Can't sing, but I can mimic. Got some of my mother's talent."

"Jack, if we can amplify her voice – a speaker system or p.a. or even bullhorns – we can maybe draw the Goa'uld to a location we pick," Daniel suggested. "I'll see if we can find an isolated spot in the Park."

Jack sat and pondered exactly how to explain any of what he would need to the cop driving the car without sounding like a lunatic himself.

"Officer, is there a way to broadcast a message in the park?"

"Depends on what's working any given day. There are some loudspeakers. Most people never understand a word that comes out of them. Might work better as the Park empties out. Alternatively, we could use police radios as speakers throughout the Park."

"Pull over by the steps. There's Daniel."

Daniel was running down the steps and stopped cold halfway down. He banged his palm into his head and then resumed his run.

"What is it Daniel? Got an idea?"

"Cripes. I don't know how I missed it, Jack. Turn around and look east, a couple blocks north."

"Trees?"

"Taller."

"The thing that looks like a small version of the Washington monument?"

"Jack, it's called Cleopatra's Needle although it's got nothing to do with her. It's an ancient Egyptian obelisk covered with hieroglyphics. Ra's name is prominent along with a bunch of others – Amun, Horus, Khepera. It's like a homing beacon. It's not far from the Metropolitan Museum either, where there's an excellent recreation of the Temple of Dendur honoring Isis."

"We're on our way there, Daniel. The Obelisk doesn't do anything does it?"

"No, Jack. It's built of solid rock. Promise."

"I'll hold you to it. Let me know when reinforcements arrive."

"Officer, any chance we can drive through the park?"

"Honestly, you'd do better to take a couple of horses across the Great Lawn. Just make sure you get north of Turtle Pond before you head east."

The officer radioed for two Central Park cops to give up their mounts and their radios.

Chapter 12 – Goa'uld Out of Water

Slightly north of the Museum of Natural History, Jack and Chanah received boosts onto the horses reluctantly turned over by the Central Park police.

"Ever done this before?" Jack asked scrunching up his face at Chanah in doubt.

"Different animal. Similar concept, I hope."

"That's encouraging. Just keep your knees tight and follow me."

She soon was riding abreast of Jack not having any problem handling the well trained horse. Jack shot her a look of scorn.

"You're just not much of a follower, are you?"

"Spent a good deal of my childhood in a Goa'uld slave camp, Jack. Kind of puts you off following for life."

"Fair enough for now. We might need to work on it in the future. Unless we see the snakehead, let's just head right for the obelisk. Then you can do the creepy voice."

"Hope I'm not too out of practice."

"Just say 'beloved' a lot. Hathor had a thing about that. Definitely mention Ra, and maybe Seth too. He seemed to have issues with the others."

"No problem."

The horses had been a good idea. It's not easy to try to empty out Central Park quickly on a Sunday afternoon. Plus the horses could take a much more direct path to the obelisk than a car ever could. When they arrived at the obelisk, no one was there, not even a local.

"How much time does the snake have on us?" Chanah asked.

"More than an hour."

"Jack, it wouldn't take that long to get here walking from the Natural History Museum. Maybe we're way off here."

"Since we have no better ideas, let's assume that he has a bad sense of direction. Took a loop. Or asked for directions and got bad ones. Start the creepy voice thing, and we'll put it out over the radio every couple of minutes; hopefully they've found a way to broadcast it through the Park."

Jack did not like hearing Chanah do Goa'uld, especially with the creepy voice effect.

"How the hell do you do that?" he whispered after her first pass.

"Practice."

"Why?"

"Jack, there wasn't exactly a lot of entertainment in the slave camp. Kind of had to make your own."

"Don't you ever do that just for fun around me."

"Promise. Jack, maybe we should have a plan for taking the snake before he gets here."

"I was hoping that Carter would arrive in a helicopter with big guns by then."

"Yeah, well . . . in case, it's just us?"

"Shoot the snakehead in the head or heart as fast and as many times as I can."

"You don't think we should try and talk the snake into coming with us, to the SGC or somewhere else. Promise to deliver it to Ra, who by the way I just told him was waiting for his child to arrive."

"No, dead works best for me. The live stuff is for the NID. We don't see eye to eye on that."

"And if he doesn't go down right away and has a ribbon device?"

"You and the chop socky stick go to work."

"Jack, I'm good, but this stick is just made of wood. Not like the other."

"Crap. Kinda forgot. Do another round of the creep voice and let me think a minute."

A minute later, Jack was still underwhelmed with their weapons. Still it was just one Goa'uld, no Jaffa. He was good with his gun, very good. A couple of well placed shots should give them time to get the Goa'uld under control before the snake could repair the damage.

"Okay. Revised plan. Try to make nice to the Goa'uld, so I can get off some good shots."

"Jack, maybe you would do better shooting if you were concealed. Maybe take cover in the . . ." Chanah tossed her head off to the side.

"Shrubbery?" Jack chuckled at her invocation of the famous skit.

"To demonstrate the value of not being seen," Chanah smiled.

"All right." God he liked that she got Monty Python, he thought as he did go for the cover.

"Just try not to piss the snakehead off too fast. I've seen you in action."

"I'll be as diplomatic as you."

"That would be ignoring what I just asked you."

"Go already."

They waited. Chanah repeated her creepy Goa'uld spiel every couple of minutes. Jack moved around the shrubbery looking for the best field of vision. Finally, after fifteen minutes that seemed like an hour, the Goa'uld arrived. He was a big one, dressed in an exquisite Egyptian Pharaoh costume.

A costume, Jack cursed, with a heavy metal collar and large metal medallion covering most of his chest, and a metal headdress protecting most of his head except for the face. Plus a goddamned ribbon device on his hand. Jack was not pleased. If only he'd had a P-90, not just his sidearm. Now he'd have to get in close to do any real damage. So much for the value of not being seen. He just hoped Chanah could keep the Goa'uld calm awhile, and then maybe the troops would arrive. Not that he'd heard the first sound of them.

Some twenty feet from Chanah's position in front of the monument, the Goa'uld stopped and spoke. In Goa'uld. Jack had no clue what was being said.

"You are not Hathor."

"It is I beloved one. It was necessary for me to take a new host since you have been asleep."

He approached a few feet closer.

"You lie. You are not Goa'uld. Where is Hathor?" He was raising the ribbon device up towards Chanah's head. There was that sticky little issue of Goa'ulds being able to sense the presence or absence of a symbiote.

Jack didn't know what they were saying but he knew it was going south. He came out of the bushes, gun behind his back, moving forward slowly so as not to startle the Goa'uld. He started his own spiel.

"Beloved Hathor is dead. Along with Ra, Apophis, Nirrti, Seth, Sokar, and a crapload of others. All pushing up daisies, bought the farm, dead as doornails, deep sixed, belly up, fat lady done sang. Now it's your turn."

Jack poised to fire and got off two shots which clanged off the snake's armor before Jack was thrown backwards by the ribbon device. The gun went flying behind him. The Goa'uld kept the ribbon device focused on Jack's body and approached him.

Chanah took the distraction from Jack to go after the Goa'uld from behind. She swung the bo stick at the back of his knees. It was enough of a blow to push him off balance and cause him to turn the ribbon device from Jack to her. Right on the forehead. He kicked the bo stick out of her hand as he moved closer to her.

Jack needed a few seconds to recover before he could move. His gun had gone somewhere behind him. He realized that if help didn't come soon, this guy could keep this up a while, switching the damn ribbon device from one to the other eventually killing them. He had to find his gun.

The Goa'uld, though bearing the ribbon device into Chanah, kept an eye on Jack. Jack inched along backward on his rear before deciding to dive for the gun. He got blasted by the ribbon device in the middle of his dive. The Goa'uld approached him and picked up the gun.

"You think to harm me with this silly device."

He threw it forty feet away into the shrubs where it would not be recovered any time soon. He approached Jack with the ribbon device.

"I am a god. Your puny weapons cannot harm me. Why do you not bow down before me? What has become of Ra?"

"Already told you, he bit the dust," Jack croaked out as the ribbon device was aimed at his head.

"You lie, human. I will make you beg to tell me what I want to know."

"How trite," Jack said as the ribbon device began to bore into his head. He struggled to see how Chanah was recovering. She was pulling out the knife. As his head pounded, Jack wondered exactly what a puny little five inch throwing knife was going to do against this big armored Goa'uld. What could she possibly be thinking?

He saw her take it behind her neck as if to cock it for a throw. She flinched strangely before she took the throw. The knife clanged off the Goa'uld's head armor and fell to the ground near Jack. The Goa'uld released Jack from the ribbon device, turned toward Chanah and laughed.

"Do you not understand the power of your god? You think you can harm me with a little dagger?" he boomed.

He didn't even bother to kick the knife away from Jack he thought so little of it. The Goa'uld walked back toward Chanah and discharged the ribbon device into her head.

"How do you come to speak our language? Tell me what you know of Ra and Hathor or you will die."

Jack was starting to recover. The knife was within arm's reach, but like the Goa'uld, he was not sure it was worth bothering to get. Then he figured any weapon was better than none. It was too close to resist. When he picked it up, he saw blood on it. But it couldn't be the Goa'uld's blood. The throw missed.

"What the hell is this?" Jack thought as his throbbing head protested. Then suddenly he realized. He had one chance and he better not miss it.

Jack threw it right into the side of the Goa'uld's neck. By the time the Goa'uld turned back towards Jack, he started to lurch toward the ground. The Goa'uld fell seconds later as the symbiote leapt from the body and writhed on the ground.

Jack walked to Chanah's side and pulled out a handkerchief. Without any exchange of words, he pressed it on the back of her neck.

"I met a plastic surgeon the other night who might be able to help you with this one."

"It's okay, O'Neill. I'll treasure it as a souvenir of my trip to the Big Apple."

"You want I should get your knife back?"

"No. It's my souvenir for him."

"When we get back to the SGC, I'll help you with your knife throwing. Show you the Magnificent Seven. James Coburn was the coolest with that knife. I started throwing right after I saw it."

"Buy me a new knife too?"

"Yeah, but only after we resolve this self-mutilation issue. Never again."

"Jack, I'd have been happy to use your neck had you been closer, honest."

"Well that's a relief. . . . I think," said Jack, his eyes shifting from one side of his head to the other pondering her meaning.

Jack and Chanah turned as they first heard and then spied an Air Force chopper arriving over the Great Lawn.

"Oh, look. The cavalry is arriving. What say we get out of here and leave them the spoils," Jack offered his free hand to help Chanah up while keeping the other on her wound.

As they walked out of the Obelisk path toward the Great Lawn, they met Major Carter and two SGC teams, guns at the ready.

"Are you okay, sir? The Goa'uld?"

"Is no more, Major. We're fine. Just need a little first aid." He peeled back his handkerchief and peeked at Chanah's cut closer.

"Well, maybe a few stitches. By the way, that was some timing."

"We got here as fast as we could, sir."

"Then you get the privilege of cleaning up, Major."

"Yes sir. What exactly happened here, sir?"

"What happened is that little toxin patch in Chanah's neck just saved our collective asses. When we get back, we'll discuss your problem with them further."

"About that, sir. . ." Major Carter sputtered.

Jack cut her off. "When we get back to the SGC, Major."

"Yes, sir."

From the Great Lawn, Jack called Daniel on his cell to report it was over.

"Jack, are you guys all right? I think I know who was in the sarcophagus now."

"Daniel, we're fine and I don't give a damn who he was. He's enjoying permanent retirement now."

"How? What happened?"

"I'll explain later. Now listen carefully. You and Micah meet us at the chopper on the Great Lawn. We're getting out of here A.S.A.P. I'll call my 'personal concierge' to pack our stuff and send it to the Mountain. On your way here call Hammond and tell him to get a doc with a sewing kit to meet us at McGuire AFB. I'll be damned if we're waiting in a Manhattan E.R. all night for stitches."

"I thought you guys were fine. Who needs stitches?"

"Chanah. It's just a flesh wound," Jack reassured him, while winking at Chanah at the same time.

"Sure, Jack. Do you mind at least telling . . ."

Jack hung up before Daniel could finish.

Chapter 13 – I Will Ease Your Mind

It was late when they arrived in Colorado Springs. But since General Hammond was not leaving the base until the mess in New York was under complete control, it looked like they all might be in for another night at the SGC.

Doc Frasier had stayed to check on Jack and Chanah. She was fine with the stitches put in by the Air Force doc in New York. She wanted to know more details than they cared to share about the ribbon device. Both were trying to avoid a stay in the infirmary.

"Just a headache, Doc. No worse than the one from the soprano's aria."

"Same here," volunteered Chanah a little too fast for Doc's liking.

"All right, Tylenol for both of you. Get out of here but check back in the morning."

"You'd think she was disappointed not to keep us here," Jack joked to Chanah.

At the same time, Janet's not keeping them led to a bit of a dilemma. To stay or not to stay at the SGC that night. Chanah had not fared so well there her first two nights.

In New York she'd done fine. She'd been kept busy, active, distracted, and had a little emotional purge or two. Jack could comfort her any way he chose without feeling his actions being scrutinized by others. Other lines could be crossed too. It had been good; even the bit of absurdity that ended it a little prematurely had its moments.

At the SGC, Jack had to be all business. Jack had turned that corner irretrievably with Chanah now and he wasn't interested in backpedaling. He could have her stay watched by others, but it didn't feel right at all. But the thought of him staying on the floor with her in the bed, not touching her if either wanted it, was not palatable. Maybe no one would ever know what went on in that room, but Jack didn't entirely trust the Security Officer not to turn on the camera. The SGC was a hotbed for gossip like any other place, and there were people inside whose interests were not fully aligned with those of the current command.

Given the events of the day, a little added Goa'uld torture for both their books, he figured the chances of a bad night for Chanah were high. He wanted to be there for her, with her. That meant taking her out of the Mountain. But then there was Micah. In the end, Jack decided to look to Daniel for counsel.

Daniel did help. He'd gotten to know Micah well over the past few days. He told Jack that Micah knew what was happening between Jack and Chanah. He was okay with it since the effects on her were good. His only concern, like that of all children, was that he not be ignored or forgotten. So far there had been little room for Micah. That would need to change. He needed more of his mother. He needed more time to get to know Jack.

Jack then demonstrated how much he did know about children. He talked to Micah directly. Jack excelled at talking to kids. Hell, he was just an overgrown one. Jack apologized to Micah for monopolizing his mother's time. He asked Micah his opinions, what he wanted for himself and his mother, how he felt about Earth. Whether there was room for Jack in the picture. He listened. He didn't push. When it was done, he did make Micah some promises contingent, of course, on his mother's approval.

Micah went home with Daniel for the night with assurances that better arrangements would be made soon. Jack took Chanah home. It wasn't about fooling around; it was about the freedom to handle the night as it might come. Without prying eyes, without anyone feeling self conscious, and without anyone needing to pretend things were other than whatever they were.

It was a quiet night for a few hours. Just the two of them lying next to each other. Until Chanah woke with a start. Jack was up holding her by the shoulders before he even thought about what he was doing.

"Are you okay? You know where you are?"

"Yes, O'Neill."

"Want to tell me about it?"

"It's the thing where Babi bit into my intestines, Jack. That really hurt, like nothing else before."

"It was extremely gross too."

"That too. All the crap that's happened in my life, this is the image that keeps replaying in my brain. It doesn't make any sense."

"Might."

"How?"

"Doctrine of recency. Worst pain of late, physically speaking. You could have gone for psychic injury instead. But I'm guessing you've had a lot of opportunity to manage that stuff through the years."

"You're making this crap up, aren't you?"

"Yup. Sounds plausible though."

"So how do I get past this one?"

"I've got an idea. We'll try it tomorrow night."

"About that Jack, this isn't fair to Micah. I just got him back. He needs more of my time."

"I know. I talked to him. Tonight sleep. Tomorrow we'll deal." Jack stroked her hair and held her until she drifted off to sleep again.

Chapter 14 – Calmed Waters

Jack wasn't looking forward to returning to the SGC the next morning. God knows what fallout there was left to deal with in New York. On the one hand, everything turned out pretty well. No alien weapons were used except for the ribbon device. Nothing happened which was inconsistent with a movie being filmed in the park. The Obelisk's location was well covered by trees and shrubs, making it unlikely anyone had really seen what had occurred. Jack hoped that Hammond and the Washington spin doctors would bear the brunt of whatever clean up remained.

Then there was Carter, the business about refusing the toxin patch because of the Tok'ra. Before Jack had left for New York, he left word for Jacob Carter about Sam's impending predicament. He hoped that Jacob would convince her.

Twice now Jack's life had been saved as a result of those patches. Countless other lives might be attributed to their use. Jack now felt even more strongly that they should be mandatory for field use. He knew General Hammond would agree. If Carter didn't accept the patch, Jack would have to face losing a valued teammate. It was time for a serious talk with her.

"Morning Sam."

"For some, sir, the night never ended."

"No sleep yet?"

"No. It was a long night. Among other things, we had to make nice with the NID after you left. Seems you forgot to let them in on what you were up to?"

"Moi? How careless."

"Colonel, did you want to see me about something in particular or just to gloat? I'm really tired."

"Sam, it's time for a serious conversation. Change is in the wind. This administration will be out by the end of next year. I don't know what that will mean for sure, but there could be big changes. Ones that might not be good for me. I'm considering my options. I think you need a little heads up. Under no circumstances, will I stay on at the SGC as a desk jockey. I don't have the patience or temperament to do Hammond's job. Nor am I ready for a desk. When and if the time comes, I'll go off world."

"Not a rogue unit, sir?"

"No, Sam. It's all been stamped and approved as a contingency plan. An off world colony. A little less bureaucracy is all."

"Couldn't a new administration kill that?"

"They could try. There are measures being put in place to stave off the politicians. That's not my department."

"You'll worry about that later?"

"Something like that. But for now, things here need to be settled and in place. I need to know on whom I can count."

"Sir, you know you can count on me always."

"If any of this happens, you'll be staying here. You'll be leading SG-1. I'm counting on that."

"But sir . . ."

"It's not up for debate. You'll be wearing silver clusters by then. No one deserves it more."

"Thank you sir, but . . ."

"Sam, this is my speech. I will need a good friend on the inside. I need you to be that friend. But so help me, you'll be out of here long before that time if you don't take that toxin patch."

"Sir, . . ."

"Let me finish, Sam. One of the responsibilities of command is making tough choices, sometimes impossible ones. You can't duck this one. You can't expect people under you to do what you refuse to do. If you choose to protect the Tok'ra's asses over those of your own people, you torch your ability to command. I'm not asking you to like it, just to do it. I want an answer by the end of the day. I want it to be one that keeps you on the team."

"Sir, . ."

"The end of the day, Carter."

"But Colonel, if you would just let me say three words,"

"Only if they are 'Yes, I will'"

"Yes, I will. In fact, I did, this morning. Jacob and Selmak worked me over before that. I read your report about how the Goa'uld was killed this morning. I went to Janet afterward."

"Oh. That's good Carter, real good. I have a technical question for you now. How big a wrench are we gonna need to pull my foot out of my mouth?"

"You know that giant one Siler has?"

"That big?"

"Not big enough."

"Crap."

"Anything else, sir?"

"Now that I have needlessly dumped that stuff on you, the stuff which might never happen and about which you know absolutely nothing?"

"Yes, sir."

"I want you to think about something else, the Tinkerer and Chanah's planet. I'd like you to evaluate its potential as a new Alpha site."

"Well, obviously the Tinkerer is a valuable scientific resource. The natives are very open to visitors. They've taken in hundreds of children retrieved from the Goa'uld without hesitation. Plenty of fresh water, food and natural resources available. Fairly remote from Goa'uld controlled systems. Well protected stargate. It's a definite candidate, assuming the natives are amenable. I'll add it to the list of possibles."

"Good. You can go now, Carter. I'm glad you made the right choice."

"Sir, is there anything else you want to tell me?"

"Don't think so Carter."

"You and she seem to pair up well, fighting the Goa'uld I mean."

"We've managed."

"Have you considered adding her to the team? If she was interested?"

"Carter, have you gone bonkers?"

"No sir, I just thought that . . ."

"That I needed someone else on the team who won't follow my orders. No thanks. I've got enough of those."

"Sorry, sir.

"Plus there are those pesky regulations."

"Sir?"

"Carter, don't play dumb. You're way smarter than that."

"Well, I wasn't entirely clear if the rule applied to aliens. But I'm happy for you, sir."

"Yeah, well, I don't know where any of its going. She could leave tomorrow."

"I hope not sir."

"But at least you'll still be here, Carter."

"Yes, sir."

"And Carter, after you get that wrench for me, would you work on getting a life too?"

"I'm trying, sir."

"Try harder. Dismissed."

* * *

Problem woman one solved, thought Jack. Could have solved it in a New York minute if I'd shut up and let Carter talk, he reamed himself. Like she needed to know all that yet.

Problem two. What could Jack offer Chanah and Micah? What did he want to offer them?

Plan one: time for them to go home. Jack could visit and maybe, if things blew the wrong way in the next six to nine months or so, he might be there leading an off world SGC. Lots of ifs there. Plus off world personal visits were not terribly viable. For one, there was the expense to the Government of running the stargate. Visits could be covered up by business for some time, but how much and how long. And he was concerned about what would happen to Chanah going back now. If she didn't find something meaningful to do, she would head right back down that road to depression. She was dedicated to the fight and only gave it up out of a sense of duty to Micah. Micah might tell her it was okay to go back out there, but no way did Jack want her going back out there alone.

Plan two: find her something at the SGC. Micah was amenable, Jack knew. She could train teams in martial arts, with that bizarre combination of the Oneness and Jaffa style she used. She could even, with a little training behind her, maybe become a member of an SGC team. She'd have to learn to follow orders first. Tricky one there after operating solo as she had. But Jack believed she could rise to the opportunity, and liked fighting the Goa'uld enough to try. She and Micah would need a place to live, not much more. But Jack wasn't exactly ready to offer his home. It was a little fast for that. It wouldn't be fair to anyone, especially Micah. Jack had no idea what her expectations would be.

Jack didn't have a third plan yet. It bothered him, because three was almost always his favorite plan. Maybe it would come to him by day's end.

Meanwhile, he would check in on Chanah and Micah. Micah was as usual ensconced in Daniel's office, pouring through Jack couldn't imagine what. But he was happy. A geek in training. Jack said he'd be tied up for a while, but he'd like them all to go to dinner.

He found Chanah in the gym. She was teaching Gregson some moves. That fast she could find her own way about, her own sparring partners. How fast, Jack wondered, would she not need or want him anymore? Jack thought maybe he would be better off if she went home. "Whoa," Jack thought, and stopped himself. "When did my self esteem get so bloody low? Been out of the game too long, Jack." He stepped in between Chanah and Gregson.

"Pardon me, Gregson. The lady and I have a knife throwing lesson now."

"Certainly sir. By the way, I heard from Chanah that you put on quite a display of knife throwing in New York yesterday, sir."

"Thank you Gregson. I told you I'm not dead yet, not even close."

"No one here doubts that sir."

Gregson left at last, leaving Jack with no throwing knife to back up his excuse for interrupting. He was beaming. She'd talked him up to Gregson. He liked that. He no more wanted her gone than he wanted Sam off the team for some stupid ass reason. He'd really spent less than a total of two weeks in all with Chanah, but they were full of adventure and discovery. He wanted more. There was no use hiding it. It was time to talk to her about the future. Screw finding a plan three. They adjourned to his office.

"I've already embarrassed myself with Carter this morning. Do me a favor and stop me if I do it with you, even if you have to hit me."

"I can do that."

"Not hard enough to turn me soprano."

"Okay."

"I'm not gonna beat around the bush. I want you and Micah to stay here. We can find you a position at the SGC, martial arts training, maybe on a team later if . . ."

"If what?"

"If you learn to follow orders."

"Yours?"

"On base, yes."

"Why?"

"Because I'm second in command here."

"Not that." Chanah broke into a coyish smile, delighted at both his offer and at having pulled his leg a little.

"Why do you want us to stay?"

"You could just make this easy and answer my question. Do you want to stay?"

"If – and it's a big if – Micah was willing, I would. I would like that very much, Jack."

"He's willing."

"And you know this because?" Chanah eyed him suspiciously.

"I asked him first."

"O'Neill, this is a fine line you're crossing. You should have spoken to me first. I'm his mother."

"Ain't he the lucky one?" Jack smiled with his full complement of charm.

"No, I am," she shrugged him off.

"So you'll stay?" Jack reached out and took her hand in his.

Chanah put her other hand around his. "If you will help us find a home. For the two of us, Micah and me."

Jack inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn't ready to move in with him any more than he was with her. He wasn't even sure why he thought otherwise now.

"No problem," Jack grinned, happy to have gotten it all his way.

"Anything else you discussed with my son that I should know about?"

"Well, he's pretty observant. He's okay with the thing between us, as long as he's not, well, neglected."

"So you pretty much did an end run around me?"

"Yeah, and as long as we're on that subject. Micah and I are taking that fishing trip I promised him tomorrow, before my leave's shot. Hope you can come along."

Chanah let go of his hand, swiped a pile of paperwork off his desk and, with a playful smile, threw it at him.

"You can be infuriating, O'Neill."

"I take it that's a yes then," Jack said with a broad grin. He moved to embrace her.

"Yes, Jack," Chanah surrendered, and returned his embrace.

All that remained for Jack was getting General Hammond to swallow it. As Jack would say, after dealing with the two problem women in his life, it would be a piece of cake.

Jack, Chanah, Daniel, Carter and Micah celebrated at dinner at a local soul food restaurant. The fried chicken was superior and the sides excellent. But tonight Jack had also made sure that there was an additional dish, one especially ordered for Chanah.

Chanah took a polite bite of the strange looking stringy white mystery meat. She chewed. And chewed. And swallowed at last.

Jack broke into a huge grin.

"Well, that's interesting," Chanah commented trying to hide her dislike of it.

"Don't want more?" Jack asked.

"One bite was plenty."

"Now you know how Babi felt after he ate yours."

"O'Neill, what the hell . . ."

"Chitlins -- pig's intestines. These at least were cooked first."

If looks could kill, Jack would have been at least mortally wounded. Lucky for him, they don't. And Jack figured that any woman who liked Monty Python was bound to learn to laugh about what he'd done. Eventually.

The End.